Raymond Loewy 1893-1986
Loewy: Designer of Controversy
By David H. Ross
In the automotive world, the name Raymond Loewy is readily identified with two things: controversial styling and Studebaker. As far as his styling is concerned, you may like it or you may not, but you can't ignore it. As for Studebaker, Loewy's association with that firm covered an unbroken span of 45 years: from 1940 through 1955. Now, after a period of five years, Studebaker has again retained the services of Raymond Loewy Associates.
Stylewise, the most controversial Studebakers were the 1947 models. Yet the Society of Industrial Designers chose the '47 Studebaker as the outstanding car of the year. The Museum of Modern Art in New York picked the '47 Studebaker as one of the 10 most significant design concepts (American and foreign) in the history of the automobile. Sixteen years later, people are still arguing the esthetic values of that car. So they may, but the fact remains that the 1947 design gave Studebaker its greatest year—it undoubtedly changed the styling concepts of the entire automotive industry.
Six years later, another Studebaker of Loewy design hit the American market with an impact that again shook the styling theories of the industry. It was the '53 Studebaker coupe. The Illinois Institute of Technology, in picking the 100 best designed products of modern times, ranked the '53 Studebaker coupe fourth.
Many hailed the '53 Studebaker coupe as the most beautiful production car of its day. That is debatable. But eight years later, in 1961, the same basic design is still being built. True, the hood and grille have been changed, and bastardized fins have been added, but these changes haven't destroyed the integrity, the beauty of the basic design. All of this proves one of Loewy's design principles, here stated in his words (but, unfortunately, without his accent): "As far as the vehicle's general appearance is concerned, correct basic form will produce a better appearance." He also believes, preaches and practices that "Design should be fresh, clean and young."
And since we've mentioned two of Loewy's beliefs, let's go a little further. Let's consider one of his convictions in particular because the '53 Studebaker models present a curious anomaly in connection with it. Loewy has long been convinced that reliance on engineering, manufacturing and business integrity is not sufficient for success in the case of the independent manufacturer such as Studebaker. Keeping in step with the competition's styling is not enough. An independent, in order to succeed, must be courageous and progressive. The result may be somewhat of a shock, but it is far better than blandness. Blandness of design, for an independent, means sales anemia.
Loewy has stated this conviction many times. It appeared in print as long ago as 1951 with the publication of his book "Never Leave Well Enough Alone." Certainly the styling of the '47 Studebakers proved the strength and correctness of his theory, as did the styling of the '53 coupes. But what happened to the rest of the '53 Studebaker line? It doesn't require a careful study and analysis of the styling of the coupes and that of the sedans to see that two almost entirely different ' styling ideas are involved.
In the case of the coupes, we have a daring and highly original design concept. Lines and masses are beautifully integrated, imbued with character and integrity. The car is lower than many current models of the competition. The styling is clean with a minimum use of chrome and ornamentation, and accents and interest are provided by clean, definite highlights produced by body contours.
In the case of the sedans, on the other hand, the styling so closely follows that of the competition that it can only be described as the "Detroit look." To be sure, it has strong product identification and the treatment of the side panels on the sedans relates to that of the coupes. But the rest of the sedan styling does not. The sedans have a higher silhouette, their roof lines are different, they are bulkier, and they lack the grace and character exemplified by the coupes.
Many theories have been floated in explanation. One is that a single basic design was formulated for both the coupes and the sedans, but that changes were made to appease engineering, or to facilitate production, or to pare costs. We find this theory hard to accept. Such changes would affect the coupes as well as the sedans. Other opinions have been advanced, but none of them from an authoritative source.
We suspect that the coupes represent a styling concept proposed by Loewy for the entire '53 line. We think there may even have been another model proposed, in addition to the coupes and sedans, because there was no convertible in Studebaker's line-up. Possibly a sports car or a personal car on the order of a T-Bird with a soft top was designed; but never reached production.
What followed the introduction of the '53 Studebakers, however, is well known. The coupes were enthusiastically received—and bought by the public. Their styling won world-wide acclaim and set another precedent, just as had the styling of the '47 models.
But you can't build sales volume for an entire line on the strength of a single model. And, to add to Studebaker's troubles, strikes and production difficulties prevented the manufacturing of cars for four months during the 1953 model year. Dealers were flooded with cancellations of orders by people who grew tired of waiting for deliveries. Sales fell off and Studebaker headed into trying times. In 1956 Harold Vance was succeeded as head of the corporation by James Nance, and, that same year, the long association of the Loewy organization and Studebaker was terminated. The rest of the story is in the records.
The cancellation of the Studebaker contract left the Loewy organization without a client in the automobile industry, here or abroad. For a while, in the postwar years, Raymond Loewy had been a design consultant to Austin, and later to the Rootes group in England, but both of these contracts had expired.
In the broader field of Industrial Design, Raymond Loewy Associates had contracts with some 140 clients in this country, and 60 in Europe. He maintained design studios in New York, Chicago, London and Paris. For years, the name Raymond Loewy Associates has been outstanding in product and package design; the design of railroad equipment and rolling stock; aircraft interiors and farm machinery; luxury ocean liners, outboard motors and Greyhound buses; market analysis, department stores, specialized architecture and super markets; and city planning in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Long ago, an expression was coined to describe the scope of work of the Loewy organization, "... in design, everything from lipsticks to locomotives." The phrase has now become hopelessly inadequate. It is safe to 'say there isn't a person in this country, living in an urban or suburban community, who doesn't, every day, touch or see some object of Loewy design.
With the loss of the Studebaker contract, and the closing of the studios in South Bend, Loewy was free to pursue his interest in automobile styling, unhampered by consideration for a client.
Prior to 1956, Loewy had designed a number of individual custom cars for himself. With but few exceptions, they were Studebakers. These cars were designed and built, primarily, to try out styling features which could be incorporated in designs for the production cars.
One exception was the stock '41 Lincoln Continental coupe which was reworked to Loewy's design by Der-ham of Philadelphia. The roof was sectioned and a removable, transparent canopy was installed over the front seats. The, rear quarter windows were filled in and portholes were substituted. The front and rear fenders were reworked, all seams were welded, and lead fillets eliminated the sharp intersection of planes where fenders joined the body.
The interior was completely custom. The front seats and front compartment were upholstered in synthetics, in an off-white simulated pigskin. The rear seats and compartment were upholstered in a soft, lettuce-green broadcloth. Recessed into the roof was a hinged, folding glass partition which swung down and fastened to a ledge on the front seat-backs. Side panels then folded out to join the rear edge of the door glass. Thus, the car could be converted, at will, into a formal, chauffeur-driven town car. The windows in this car were raised and lowered by a vacuum-actuated mechanism which operated at the touch of a button. These, however, were dangerous because they would go from a fully opened position to fully closed in two seconds.
Paint styling on the car was lettuce-green and a rich, bottle-green. The windshield frame and header and the dash were a warm off-white. All of the hardware on the car, inside and out, with the exception of the bumpers and bumper guards, was gold plated. Why? Because gold was actually less expensive than hard chrome plate. Let me hasten to add that the gold plate was satin finished—not glittering.
Loewy had long been interested in sports cars. He attended the major sports car races in both the U.S. and Europe whenever he had the opportunity. His interest was more in dual-purpose sports cars of the gran turismo class than in sports/racing cars, but he studied the more successful makes of both classes for their design features. As long as he was with Studebaker, he felt it unwise to design and build any car of this class lest it give birth to rumors Studebaker was contemplating such a move.
In 1955, however, work was started on the first of what developed into a series of Loewy-designed grand touring machines. The first car, a Jaguar sports coupe, was completed in time for the Paris show that year.
And now we move into an area of really controversial design. In the styling of all of the grand touring machines, Loewy's interest has centered on aerodynamic principles, as applied to automotive design. The Jaguar reflects this interest.
The handling of the greenhouse—particularly the large, plastic rear quarter—is contoured to induce a smooth flow of air over the machine. In a side view of the car, there are no fins. Yet, a glance at the rear view shows that the contouring of the rear deck lends a flair to the rear fenders. This same feeling was later reflected in the styling of the different Chrysler models, though they were not, of course, styled by Loewy. Actually, the slope of the rear deck is a continuation of the slope of the greenhouse above it. The contours leading out and up to the rear fenders provide channels of departure for air flowing over and around the sides of the greenhouse, thus reducing air turbulence and resultant drag.
Other noteworthy features are the extensive (for Loewy) use of chrome, and the crispness, or angularity, of the front fenders. Yet the chrome has been well integrated into the lines, and the transition from the angularity of the front fenders to the rounded shoulder of the body sides and rear fenders has been beautifully handled. Originally, the hood on this car featured a number of longitudinal chrome strips, almost like a .continuation of the grille, which extended back nearly to the windshield. Subsequently a new hood, shorn of chrome, was installed —a vast improvement in appearance. The design is interesting whether you like it, or don't like it.
In 1957, Pichon and Parat of Sens, France, built a coupe to Loewy's design on the BMW 507 chassis. The design shows a greater simplification of form than the Jaguar which preceded it. Again, the contours were dictated by an effort to induce a smooth flow of air over and around the vehicle. The body, of course, is aluminum. A strengthened frame for greater rigidity, integral roll bars and interior crash padding at salient points provide safety features not usually found in a car of this type. The compound-curved windshield, incidentally, is the first manufactured in France. Unfortunately for maximum performance, these features, plus electrically operated windows, impose a weight penalty. With a 150-hp output from its V-8 engine, the car does 0-60 in 7.2 seconds.
Stylewise, the design remains controversial. The transition from the sloping greenhouse and rounded body sides to the flat skirt over the rear wheel cut-outs and around the. back of, the car has an awkward feeling. The projections faired into the skirt, at the rear, are bumpers and house the taillights and exhaust pipes. From the front, the car is fast and brutal looking.
In 1959, Loewy forsook sports cars temporarily to design a Cadillac for his personal use. Again, Pichon and Parat were the coach-builders, and the car attracted considerable attention at the 1959 Paris Automobile Show. In this case, the air-conditioned main body section was retained intact, and the front and rear sections are of Loewy design. In plan, the stock Cadillac looks rectangular, though the front and rear sections of the Loewy design are tapered, reducing the width at each end of the car by 14.5 inches. The elimination of the fins and the lines of the front and rear fenders make the car look lower and faster.
Probably the most controversial feature of the design is the elimination of the grille. Part of the vertical rise of the hood itself, which sweeps in an unbroken line from the bumper to the windshield, is a perforated screen for low-speed air induction to the engine. This is augmented, for high speed air induction, by a wide scoop under the front end. The styling of the rear end is simple and clean. The body color is a light, grey-blue-green with a metallic luster and the roof is bone white. The design demonstrates that simplicity and elegance can be combined in a big car.
In 1960, Loewy returned to sports car styling. This time Carrozzeria Motto, of Turin, built a GT coupe to Loewy's design on the Lancia chassis. The chassis and suspension were modified by Lancia for high-speed work. The engine was reworked by Nardi for a higher sustained output.
This styling is the most controversial of the Loewy designs to date, and the most interesting. The car, which is only 48 in. high, was displayed at the Paris Salon. Correspondence from France since then indicates that it inspired more inquiries than any other car on the floor.
The chromed frame of the Lancia's grille is in itself the bumper, and is mounted on telescoping arms which tie in to the chassis frame. The design is such that the grille slides inside of the sheet metal around it. In turn, the sheet metal projection ahead of the front wheels and its light, tubular framing are designed to crumple slowly and thus absorb the impact of a serious collision before the major components of the car are affected.
The lower headlights are designed to aid brake cooling, by their placement and shape. In what would otherwise be an area of air turbulence, they feed and focus a smooth, unbroken stream of air directly onto the front brakes. Later, an under-body panel, or belly-pan, was installed on the car.
The air scoop in the hood is functional and feeds ducted air directly to the carburetors. The boundary layer of heated air, which is to be found just under the hood of any fast moving car, is exhausted through the vents on each side of the windshield. The shape of these vents, and their position, produces a venturi at high speeds.
The contours of the body and the greenhouse again are designed to induce a smooth flow of air over and around the car. In plan view, the car follows two complex curves: the body lines are broad at the front, narrow slightly at the waist, swell imperceptibly over the rear wheels, then taper in again to complete the smoothly contoured rear end. This desirable, sculptured outline was apparent on some of the leading cars competing at Le Mans last year. It also points up the fact that, to quote Mr. Loewy: "Automotive designers or stylists can learn much from a thorough study or analysis of the shapes and lines used on racing machines of both the sports car and Grand Prix type." He believes, too, that true streamlining, as opposed to superficial streamline effects, must become more evident in the styling of the new production cars.
The shape of the plastic back of the greenhouse is worth special attention. At first glance, it looks like a notched-back design. But in profile, the slope of the greenhouse flows into that of the rear deck in what is almost a fast-back design. In plan view, on the other hand, the bottom of the clear plastic tapers to a small radius on the centerline.
Experience has shown, however, that whether you have a fast-back or a notched-back design, the passage of a fast moving car through the air is going to create turbulence. Only a pure air-foil shape can avoid doing so. And this turbulence, or vortex, is at the back of the car—regardless of the car's shape—where it acts as a drag or retarding force.
The airfoil mounted on brackets above the roof of the car is an attempt to overcome or reduce this retarding force. The turbulence can't be eliminated, but the foil is intended to shift the area in which it forms to a point about 30 feet to the rear, where it will no longer affect the car. Whether or not it is successful remains to be seen. Wind-tunnel experiments are scheduled in the Eiffel Laboratories in Paris to determine if the airfoil can, in fact, displace the area of turbulence to a point where it no longer affects forward speed. In the meantime, the airfoil is detachable and is not normally mounted on the car.
The styling of the Lancia is controversial, and generates strong and opposing reactions, but it is a fascinating design and at least we know, now, some of the reasoning incorporated in its form.
None of the Loewy GT machines is an out-and-out competition car. The interiors and appointments are luxurious in comparison with those of most sports cars. But they are fast, able machines designed for - sustained high-speed work with a minimum of driving effort, and maximum stability and safety. They represent the expenditure of no little effort and considerable expense and, undoubtedly, some of their design features will appear later in the styling of production cars.
Studebaker has now acquired a new management. Raymond Loewy has again been retained as a design consultant, but a Loewy studio is unlikely to be set up, as it was before, at South Bend. Mr. Loewy will direct design from New York, Paris and Palm Springs, and a design staff will function in the Loewy studios in Chicago.
As this is being written, Mr. Loewy is in Palm Springs, Calif., in the beautiful home he calls Tierre Caliente. Styling ideas for the new Studebakers are being formulated. What they are like, or on what models they will appear, we don't know, but from the foregoing, you can be sure of two things:. the new Studebakers should be exciting, and they will be controversial.
©1961 David H. Ross - Road & Track
The original 'designer as film star'. A French born engineer who worked as a window dresser before moving into industrial design in the late 1920's. His first success was restyling a duplicating machine for Gestetner - an example of extending product life and market without technical innovation. Best known for steam locomotives and refrigerators, he also designed logos for Exxon and Shell, and the interior of the Skylab. Contrary to rumor he did not design the Coca-Cola bottle, nor did President Kennedy ask him to work for NASA. This self-promotion tied in with his role as a pure stylist. Employed purely to 'streamline the sales curve', it is estimated that at the peak of his career over 75% of Americans came into contact with one or more of his products every day. Despite the rivalry between them, Henry Dreyfuss said that "Loewy is the best advert the profession has".
The first serious efforts to integrate art and engineering for modern mass production were made in Germany in the early 1920s. This was in the Bauhaus design school, where the impetus came from the architect Walter Gropius; and the influence of this school was so great that by 1928 it was possible for no less than four separate industrial design consultancies to be established in New York. One of these four was that of Raymond Loewy, and he was immediately successful. The time was now right for a fresh approach to the design of industrial products; for a long time the mere facts of the car, the radio, the refrigerator and so on were sufficiently exciting to overwhelm any critical appreciation of the relationship of form to function in each, but large-volume production had made such strides (especially in the USA) that aesthetic appeal was fast becoming a major factor in marketing. Although cheap and humble products were most in need of the professional designer's services, it was the really big corporations who possessed the resources to test the validity of the claims made by Loewy's new profession: there- fore, his first important designs were of locomotives for the Pennsylvania Railroad and refrigerators for Sears Roebuck - these latter, sold as the Coldspot series, being so successful as to fix a style that remained universal for 30 years. Very soon it became clear that the criteria of the industrial designer could validly be applied to the motor-car, and by 1939 Raymond Loewy found himself put in charge of styling for the Studebaker Corporation. His first task was to clean up the existing designs and rid them of their more obvious failings, but during the ensuing war years it was hardly appropriate to risk anything that savored of iconoclasm. When the air had cleared, however, Loewy took his chance; the new Studebaker displaced all the old cliches of car design so effectively that before long it had become the model upon which the majority of others were fashioned.
When these 1946-7 Studebakers appeared, there were brief jibes from the skeptics who maintained that it was impossible to tell whether the cars were coming or going, but it did not take long for the world to be sure that this utterly novel styling was the coming thing: within a few years, it was commonplace for ordinary saloons to feature a 3-box, turret-top composition in which the rearmost box (the luggage boot) was as substantial as the foremost or engine compartment, and in which the area of glazing to provide vision to the rear was almost as great as that at the front of the turret within which the passengers were lodged. It was a re-proportioning that struck at the very roots of car styling and engineering, one which was perhaps more fundamental and successful than any since Maybach's 1901 Mercedes and Budd's 1916 Dodge, or before the 1959 Mini of Issigonis. With its unaccustomed symmetry and its wrap-round glass, the Studebaker set fashions that persist today. Alas, fashion is a commodity that defies accountancy. For a while Studebaker prospered, but it was not for long. It may even be questioned whether that brief prosperity was of Loewy's making, for as Alfred P. Sloan wrote in his outstanding book My Life with General Motors: 'With the resumption of production after World War Two it was necessary because of shortages, particularly of steel, for the industry to operate under material controls. These allocations favoured the smaller manufacturers (Kaiser-Frazer, Nash, Hudson, Studebaker and Packard) whose product presenta- tion at that time was concentrated in the medium-price range, with the result that the proportion of the market accounted for by their cars increased sharply. Competition in this period was largely con- fined to production - that is, whatever a manufacturer could make, customers were waiting to purchase. In the years after 1948, normal competitive influences began to reassert themselves in some areas of the market, and the sales of the smaller manufacturers in the medium-price group declined.'
Loewy, it seemed, had shot his bolt; and if the entire car business profited from his work, his immediate employers unfortunately did not. The last attempt to save Studebaker involved Loewy in one of his most dramatic designs, the 1962 Avanti. He was justifiably proud of this high-performance machine, with its ergonomically- integrated controls and functionally-coherent shape, for integra tion and cohesion in these things was the essence of his work - as may be seen by looking at his designs for Aga cookers. The American public was by no means educated or eclectic enough to buy the cars in adequate numbers, however, and the company foundered. A rescue operation mounted by a consortium of businessmen saved the Avanti for a limited production, which endured for another 1o years; but more important was the fact that its lines- subject to the mutations of the jeans era - were echoed in many commercially successful cars, including some current models. Once again, Loewy was proved correct in his assertions.
To be right once in car styling or design is a circumstance within the working life of many men. To be right twice is a privilege for very few; and Loewy, in his subsequent attempts, came nowhere near that mark of genius or conceptual larceny which is to be right three times. None of the other self-styled industrial designers, who now populate the lofting rooms or tramp the streets between them, has fared much better. The old adage about each man having only one design in him seems to apply perhaps more rigorously in body design than in any other branch of car creation. This need not be seen as a criticism of the work of all those men who have each produced one outstanding design: it is more a recognition of the validity of individual style.
originally an article in the Saturday Evening Post magazine but Derham had the article printed in brochure form for distribution to their clients, the brochure is folded horizontally for mailing, very interesting in that this brochure was autographed at the bottom "To Bob Jones of Packard-from James P. Derham". Bob Jones was a stylist with Packard and friendly with James Derham. He had also worked for Raymond Loewy earlier. This brochure shows the 1941 Lincoln Continental with Custom Derham body designed Raymond Loewy. The color photograph shows Raymond Loewy leaning on the door and Mrs. Loewy sitting in the drivers seat. This car does exist today
To a degree unequaled by the names of any of the other founding fathers of industrial design, the name of Raymond Loewy radiate a charisma that has attracted public attention throughout the past half century. Loewy's flamboyant lifestyle has included at various times country homes outside Paris, in southern France, Mexico, Long Island, and Palm Springs, as well as luxurious urban apartments in Manhattan and Paris. The worldwide image has been reinforced by his design offices not only in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, but also in London, Paris, San Juan, and Sao Paulo, among others.
This matter of image and style is very important because - in combination with a keen business sense, a highly developed imagination, and a rich design talent - it was an important element in generating a sense of excitement about, not only Raymond Loewy, but the new profession of industrial design itself.
Much has been written about the trial by fire the new profession underwent during the Great Depression and how industrial design proved itself by demonstration that in a shrinking market, the product "designed" by an industrial designer would win out over an otherwise similar and equal product. The office of Raymond Loewy provided more than it's share of such demonstration cases - and did so with a flair that reflected credit on the client, firm and designer alike.
Loewy's design philosophy is not a deeply intellectual one. He summarized it with the acronym MAYA (most advanced, yet acceptable). The proliferation of clean, functional, and dynamic products that emerged from the Loewy offices throughout his long career provides testimony to his success in correctly making the prediction "Most advanced, yet acceptable".
Examples of his designs that have become famous include the 1947 Studebaker Starlight Coupe, the 1953 Starliner Coupe and the 1961 Avanti - designs that generated a public interest and acceptance far out of proportion to the company's relative size in the industry; the 1947 line of Hallicrafter radio receivers that conveyed a crisp precision far ahead of their time; the 1929 Gestetner duplicating machine, the S-1 Steam locomotive for the Pennsylvania Railroad - all landmark designs that were extremely successful and influential in establishing higher design standards in their respective design areas.
It is difficult to measure precisely Loewy's impact on our contemporary environment, but he has certainly had a dynamic and significant one. His continuing vitality and international influence are demonstrated by his being retained as a major industrial design consultant in the 1970's by the Government of the Soviet Union - this as he entered his eighties.
James M Alexander (from "Contemporary Designers" edited by Ann Lee Morgan, St. James Press, London and Chicago, 1985)
Raymond Loewy and the Studebaker Design Team
Writing of design legend Raymond Loewy in Raymond Loewy: Pioneer of Industrial Design, Mercedes styling chief Bruno Sacco, himself a styling legend, said:
"Three projects, all for Studebaker, have earned Raymond Loewy a place in the history of automobile design: the 1947-52 series, the l953-55 models, and the crowning achievement of the 1962 Avanti. Do we miss a continuous thread of design philosophy in the Studebakers? Is that perhaps where Loewy failed? He was never a man to take small steps; it was in his nature to jump several squares at a time on the checkerboard. And, as his association with Studebaker shows, he managed to carry it off, and left his mark on automobile design."
It is for the work at Studebaker that Raymond Loewy and his Studebaker design team are one of two Honored Designers celebrated at the 1995 Eyes on Classic Design.
Raymond Loewy generally worked with a large staff of colleagues, though few would question the dominance of his personality and his design philosophy. He recognized, as have so many others, that automotive design is team endeavor.
Before contracting with Studebaker, Loewy cut his automotive design teeth working with Hupmobile. The 1932 V-8 Spyder Cabriolet was the first car to carry the Loewy imprimatur and to be built to Loewy's satisfaction. His 1934 Hupmobile designs, though elegant, failed to rescue the company and were discontinued in 1936.
"My association with Studebaker started in 1938 and lasted until 1962," Loewy wrote in his autobiography Never Leave Well Enough Alone, in which he also stated, "The keynote of my work was simplification."
Prevailing opinion holds that Studebaker hired Raymond Loewy because it simply lacked automobile design talent of the caliber to be found at General Motors, Ford, or Chrysler.
Into the design vacuum at Studebaker, Loewy took his aims of simplicity, making what appeared to be only minor surface adjustments to the existing Studebaker line. Yet, his work resulted in the clean, simple lines found on late 1930s Studebakers and in the 1938 Studebaker being named "Best Looking Car of the Year" by the American Federation of Arts. Loewy's design for the 1942 Studebaker, production of which was halted by World War II, emerged in 1946 looking anything but dated.
Working at Studebaker with Virgil M. Exner, later design vice president at Chrysler, Loewy spent a part of the war years developing design executions for the post-war Studebaker cars. Launched in mid-1946, these Studebaker designs were the product of a less than happy collaboration between Virgil Exner and Loewy, (Exner resigned before the project's completion) but the cars were stunning.
The 1946 Studebakers differed from previous American production cars in that their shape was dictated by an overall design, or architecture, and not by the car's individual components such as fenders, trunk lid, and hood. These cars presaged the "pontoon" shape soon a to be ubiquitous, and the forward-leaning look of the 1946 Studebakers and those that followed established the marque as a style leader, if only temporarily.
In 1950, Loewy gave Studebakers a slightly smoother look that featured the bullet-nose front end. Viewed from the front, these cars had a definite resemblance to an aircraft. This feature disappeared with the end of the 1952 model run.
Working with Studebaker, located in South Bend, Indiana, the Loewy team found that it could design cars without the "help" of prevailing Detroit styling wisdom.
"Thanks to [Studebaker president] Paul Hoffman, I was given the opportunity to design cars liberated from most of Detroit's atavistic influences. No more inbred, incestuous designs; instead, a fresh new approach for a century-old firm was demanded. The body-styling division which I formed at the plant and that bore my name became known in the profession for its talent, spirit, and sense of mission." Loewy wrote in 1951, prior to the appearance of his statement's best evidence.
As planning progressed for the 1953 models that would be the high-water mark for Studebaker styling, Loewy worked with another designer who would make his mark in Detroit. This was Robert Bourke.
The 1953 Studebakers were, as the design world knows, critical styling successes. Their impact carried them as far as the cover of Time magazine. Sadly, the models were not big enough sellers to prevent the need for a merger with Packard in 1954. As lovely to look at as the Hawks and Starlight coupes of this era were, the Loewy team had one more Studebaker ace up its sleeve. This was the Avanti, introduced in 1962 with a fiberglass body, unconventional plane relationships, and a clean treatment of details.
Years later, Loewy said, "If I were to redesign Avanti today, I would keep it much the same."
Re: Raymond Loewy and Steve Jobs
From Laurence Loewy
Dear Mr. Moore,
I'm Laurence Loewy, daughter of Raymond Loewy; I can't tell you how much I enjoyed your article of January 11th, "Steve Jobs May Be The Raymond Loewy Of Computer Design, But That Doesn't Make Apple The Studebaker of PC Makers".
I wanted to thank you for coming to the defense of my dear father. As a former editor, I thought your article was accurate, thorough and entertaining. Loved your statement, "However, there are a lot worse people to be compared with than Raymond Loewy, who was arguably the greatest American industrial designer of the 20th century."
Also you corrected Mr. Molone who cast Loewy as the head of Studebaker. You reminded your readership that Dad ran his own industrial design firm to which Stude contracted most of its styling and body design work from '38 through '55.
Thanks for pitching Dad's autobiography "Never Leave Well Enough Alone". I hope to see it re issued this year in time for a major Loewy exhibition at the Hagley Museum.
Thanks for linking to my web site www.RaymondLoewy.com
May I add your story to my Loewy link page?
Happy motoring, Laurence Loewy, Ceo Loewy Design
Virgil Exner joined Raymond Loewy's industrial design firm, Raymond Loewy Associates, in 1938, and as with Robert Bourke and others associated with the 1953 Starliner design, and Tom Kellogg and others who worked with Loewy on the Avanti, Exner had a great deal to do with the the design of the early postwar Studebakers, especially the 1947 Starlight coupe. In 1939, Exner was assigned by Loewy to head the Studebaker account in South Bend, with the major role in design of the postwar Studebaker. In 1944, he was fired by Loewy and hired directly by Studebaker, but Loewy's firm continued as the prime contractor in Studebaker design and styling. In 1949, Exner joined Chrysler as head of advanced styling, where he was responsible for many of the beautiful and groundbreaking styling innovations pioneered by Chrysler Corp. on the '50s.
In "Raymond Loewy: Pioneer of Industrial Design", Mercedes styling chief Bruno Sacco wrote: "Raymond Loewy generally worked with a large staff of colleagues, though few would question the dominance of his personality and his design philosophy. He recognized, as have so many others, that automotive design is team endeavor." Sacco notes that the 1947 - '49 Studebakers "were the product of a less than happy collaboration between Virgil Exner and Loewy."
Raymond Loewy Associates did Studebaker design work from 1938 through 1955, at which time the Studebaker Board of Directors declined to renew Loewy's contract. Loewy was of course invited back in 1961 to design the Avanti.
Brooks Stevens, who was an industrial designer of many accomplishments himself, did work as a design consultant for Studebaker at the end, hired by Studebaker CEO Sherwood Egbert to work on the mainstream Studebakers, including the Lark and Hawk, while Raymond Loewy and his team worked on the Avanti. Stevens most memorable efforts were a major restyle of the Gran Turismo Hawk for the 1962 model year, with a formal squared-off roofline and rear fender line.
Stevens also was responsible for the European-flavored Lark Daytona, and the innovative Lark Wagonaire Station Wagon for 1963 with a sliding roof above the cargo compartment that could turn it into a sort of impromptu pickup truck when needed
When other commitments prevented Loewy from working on some special design projects for Studebaker. Stevens later quoted Egbert saying: "I can't manage to get Loewy in on this one, you'll have to help me..." The results of that project were a trio of Studebaker Larks: a black and pink convertible known as "Mademoiselle;" a vehicle called "Yachtsman," (Stevens was an avid Yachtsman who competed in the America's Cup); and a "Town Car" featuring central roll-over hoop and a vinyl half-roof. Stevens also dressed up a Hawk Gran Turismo for the Chicago Motor Show, but these cars were essentially design exercises for show purposes and never made it to production.
Sherwood Egbert was stricken with cancer shortly thereafter, and replaced by Byers Burlingame. Stevens went on to develop his Excalibur replicar project on a Lark Daytona chassis, The Excalibur prototype, with a supercharged R2 Avanti 289 CID engine was displayed at the New York Auto Show as a "Studebaker SS," but that was an independent effort financed personally by Stevens after Studebaker decided it would not display a car it would never produce.
Stevens went on to form SS Automobiles, which built the Excalibur SS with 327 CID Chevrolet engines. The Excalibur remained in limited production for 24 years.
Arguably one of the most influential designers of the 20th century, Loewy has been called “the man who shaped America.” He left his mark countless times on everyday culture — from household products, to transportation, to corporate identity.
Loewy was one of the first designers to understand the link between design and the economy. He expressed this connection by stating: “Between two products equal in price, function, and quality, the better looking will outsell the other.” He proved that the success of a product is as dependent on aesthetics as function.
Throughout his career, Loewy’s many successes helped establish the integral role of the industrial designer in the development and marketing of sophisticated manufactured goods. Through his efforts, Loewy helped legitimize industrial design as a profession. Loewy helped establish the first professional organization for industrial designers, the Industrial Designers Society of America, which today is still in existence as the Industrial Designers Society of America [IDSA].
Loewy’s contributions to the design community helped propel industrial design to new heights. He lectured frequently to design students and spent a lot of time in Europe in the 70’s and 80’s training young designers. As a result, a whole new generation of industrial designers found their inspiration in Loewy and his designs. Today, the profession of industrial design is well established on virtually every continent and was even identified in 1998 by Time magazine as one of the top 15 hottest professions of the decade
Raymond Loewy, one of the principal inventors of modern industrial design, redefined the look of everything from logos to locomotives. For many years Loewy served as the principal designer for the Studebaker Corporation, and in 1961 they called upon him to design a new automobile to save the company. These twelve sketches were sent from Loewy's Paris office to help in the effort, which resulted in the "Avanti," a rare instance in which the merits of a product caused it to survive the failure of the company which produced it.
Loewy's relationship with the Pennsylvania Railroad began in the early 1930s, when he approached railway president Martin W. Clement and voiced his desire to design locomotives. The T-1 design was the last steam engine the Pennsylvania Railroad used before switching to diesel-powered engines.
Drawing on his extensive experience in the design and operation of the automobile, Loewy succinctly sketched the basic elements of this "safety car" design for Cornell University, in order to arrive at a design solution that was both attractive and secure.
Loewy, Raymond (Packard) An influential designer who did contract work for Studebaker. Some of Loewy's influence will follow Studebaker into the Studebaker-Packard merger. A contract between Studebaker and Loewy, which extends into 1962, follows Studebaker into the Studebaker-Packard merger, and to secure release of that contract Nance will pay Loewy a million dollars in 1955. It is money badly needed elsewhere. McRae, hired from Ford, will replace Loewy.
For more information please read:
David H. Ross - Loewy: Designer of Controversy, August 1961 issue of Road & Track
James M. Alexander, Ann Lee Morgan - Contemporary Designers
|© 2004 Coachbuilt.com, Inc. | Index | Disclaimer | Privacy|