I realize the title of this post is a little esoteric, but it’s based on a satire of a 1934 car brochure entitled “Airdreme 1934”, done by the commercial artist Bruce McCall. (His satire of late ’50s cars is “The ’58 Bulgemobiles”.) The mid- to late-’30s was the high point of art deco “streamlined modern” auto styling, when the industry was making the transition from horseless carriage to sleek, teardrop shapes symbolizing the new age of speed. A previous post relating to this subject is provided here. So I’m bopping around eBay and I’m finding these beautiful, splendid examples of the breed, most of which are relatively unknown and, I believe, deserve more recognition. And so I will present my nominations for the ultimate Airdreme.
Let’s start with this: 1935 Studebaker Dictator. I’m just going to lay down some photos, just so you can take it all in. The flowing lines and almost architectural forms here are just splendid!
A chromium goose soaring through an aerodynamic teardrop. What could be more graceful? This was also the golden age of radiator ornaments.
Check out the detail on those trunk hinges!
Boy, those seats look comfy! So luxurious–I thought Studebaker was in the low-priced field!
Wood-grained metal looks elegant here, not tacky like the 70s-80s plastic versions. The sun-ray pattern on the door panel is a typical art deco motif. The valiant goose, wings outstretched, leads the way!
Pure art deco! Looks almost like a tabletop radio of the period. Like the little plaque below? “THE DICTATOR”.
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Ah, but this Dictator sedan is just a warm-up to what I’m REALLY looking for. A Land Cruiser. No, not the extended wheelbase Studebaker from the ’50s, but the original, which was produced in 1934 & ’35. This may be the most interesting looking car you’ve never heard of. In fact, no Curbside post has featured one in 10 years of Curbsiding!
Now, there doesn’t seem to be too much information on these, but according to an article from Hemmings Motor News, the Land Cruiser was built in both the Commander and President lines. Only 201 President versions were built, and 3 are known to exist today, making the odds of finding one at curbside = x → 0. Here’s the Commander:
It looks almost other-worldly from this angle. Truly “Air-Dreme-y”.
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1935 Packard Model 1201. This car just looks so . . . perfect; I just don’t know what to say about it. It almost looks like a toy. Like if you wanted to picture the ultimate mid-30s car, this is what you would think of. And yet it’s real:
I never saw this spare tire arrangement before.
Relatively plain gauges for such a high-end car! But oh, so finely made!
This back seat is no “penalty box”.
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Those are my eBay finds. But I wanted to include my other nominations for Ultimate Airdreme (photos cribbed from the Internet):
1936 Cord 812. (Everybody knows about that one).
1935 La Salle
1936 Marmon Sixteen Victoria Coupe
1934 Graham Blue Streak
1934 Auburn 850Y Phaeton
1934 REO Royale N-2
1934 Cadillac Fleetwood V-16 Coupe
1936 Duesenberg Gentlemen’s Speedster
1937 Hudson Terraplane Deluxe 71 Coupe
1939 Dodge Luxury Liner
1939 Graham Model 97
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So if the 1958 Buick/Olds/Cad is the ultimate Bulgemobile, which is the ultimate Airdreme? One of my nominations, or something you have in mind which I didn’t list? When looking at these ’30s masterpieces, you can see why curmudgeons in the early ’50s would say, “These postwar cars are all CRAP!” That’s what Jean Shepherd’s old man (portrayed in A Christmas Story) believed, and he thought Shep’s ’49 Ford was a piece of plastic junk. “Thank God he didn’t live to see the Pinto!” Jean Shepherd exclaimed.
While I love the style and craftsmanship of these cars, they’re a little hard for me to relate to. When I was a kid, you might find one in or behind an old barn somewhere, usually covered with dirt or surface rust. Either that, or you could see a shiny, restored example in a museum. They seemed like rare artifacts from a lost world–something you see in old movies, but not in real life. As for owning one, I think the driving experience would be far removed from what I’m used to. Those postwar “JUNK” cars ushered in innovations like improved suspension, better tires, power assists, more powerful and reliable engines, automatic transmissions, and so forth. But I still like seeing these relics, and those who polish them and keep them alive are preserving a valuable part of our great American heritage!