After World War I, the Art Deco rage hit the Western world. It was the bold, modern look that went with the bold, modern music of the era, jazz. Its geometric, often streamlined motif was epitomized in the Chrysler Building which looks like it could soar into space at any time.
In the automotive industry, 1934 was the year of bringing that streamlining onto the highway.
The most famous example was the ill-fated 1934 Chrysler Airflow, which almost bankrupted Chrysler.
It was just too much of a change for the buying public. However, Hupmobile also brought out a streamlined model that year, designed by Raymond Loewry.
Loewry was an industrial designer who created everything from logos to those streamlined locomotive engines that epitomize the age. After his streamlined Hupmobile, he went on to design many other iconic cars, including the Studebaker Avanti.
Loewry’s motto was MAYA, or Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable. His Hupmobile’s oblong headlights were molded into the car at a time when most cars had round headlights perching on the fenders like a preying mantis’ eyes.
The long hood flowed into the firewall and front doors with a smooth, easy grace. The grill was strongly canted, although with a traditional look.
The grill was changed in 1936 to resemble the “waterfall” one of the Chrysler Airflow and a ’30s version of a space ship was used as a hood ornament.
Although more successful than Chrysler’s version, the company was in decline and folded in 1940.
When Richard Gruwell saw a completely original 1936 Hupmobile for sale at last year’s Roamin Angel Car Show at the fairgrounds, he was smitten. He had only seen that model in books and said, “You either love it or you hate it. I love it and so does Pat (his wife).”
After three trips back to the Corral, he finally found the owner, who took him on a test drive with fellow Roamin Angel Christie Barden riding in the back. The owner also let Richard have a chance behind the wheel.
Richard’s memory of his first time behind the wheel was, “I certainly found out it was an old car.”
Christie’s only comment upon arriving back at the fairground was, “He (the owner) made the clutch chatter and you didn’t.”
It was a purely “Christie” way of giving a compliment. Richard made a deal with the owner and drove his Hupmobile home.
There are some changes in this Hupmobile’s future.
“After buying a style you like, one of the most beautiful things you can do is make it safer. That normally means putting in a modern drive train,” Richard said.
He plans to put in a new drive train, probably a ‘65 Buick “nailhead” 401 CID engine with a Turbo 400 auto trans.
He has not decided on a rear end or whether he will add disc brakes just in the front or on all four wheels, but it will ride and handle better when he finishes.
In the meantime, Richard enjoys driving it around town to such places as the informal Cars and Coffee gathering every Saturday at the Kmart parking lot on McKnight Way in Grass Valley.
“I am the proud owner of the most beautiful car ever,” he said with a grin.
“It was Art Deco personified.”
Ron Cherry and nine other local writers will be hosting a book signing at the Nevada City Winery May 10. For more about his writing, go to www.rlcherry.com.