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The Best-Looking Cars of the 1940s


Jaguar XK120

Jaguar XK120

During World War II, most British car factories were converted to the production of various military equipment. Jaguar (then known as Swallow Sidecars) assembled aircraft engines. However, this had its own appeal: the engineers were able to familiarize themselves with the latest technologies in the motor industry to then apply them to their own industry. In 1943, a team of designers led by William Hines began developing an all-new six-cylinder engine.

In 1945, company director William Lyons renamed the company Jaguar. After the name change, they undertook a radical update of the entire model range. By that time the engine was almost ready. For its time, this 3.4-liter in-line "six" was very advanced - with a cylinder head made of aluminum alloys and two overhead camshafts. The performance was very good: 160 hp in the road version and 180 hp in the race version.

William Lyons decided that this engine should be the first to get a new image model, which would not become mass-produced, but would attract attention to the brand. Therefore, Jaguar undertook the development of a two-seat sports convertible. The work on it lasted three years, and they decided to present the novelty at the first post-war London Motor Show in 1948.

The public debut of the new Jaguar created a sensation. The sleek convertible instantly attracted attention with its streamlined, aerodynamic aluminum alloy body. Among the design innovations were independent suspension of the front wheels and adjustable steering column. The interior was decorated with expensive leather and walnut wood. The name of the model was also intriguing - XK120. At the presentation, Jaguar representatives explained that they had not invented such a digital designation for nothing. After all, their creation was able to reach 120 mph (193 km/h), that is, it was the fastest road car of its time.

Many were skeptical of this statement, but William Lyons was not used to throwing words to the wind. Soon the press was invited to a demonstration run on an ultra-modern Belgian highway. XK120 surpassed all expectations, because it developed an incredible 200 km/h. km/h and set the world speed record for production cars. Acceleration to 100 km/h took less than 10 seconds. And the reliability of the convertible proved on the race track in Montlery, where it was tested for a week at a speed of 160 km / h. During this time, the cars traveled over 27 thousand km, they stopped only to refuel and change tired pilots.

The records brought Jaguar not only fame, but also numerous orders for the XK120. Moreover, the demand was so great that the factory capacity was not enough to satisfy it. The initial plans to build 200 cars were abandoned, and since 1951 they began to expand production. Moreover, the interest to the XK120 was shown in the largest car market in the world - in the USA, and the British government decided to provide tax benefits to exporters.

The car was decided to make cheaper and less labor-intensive in manufacturing, so aluminum body panels were replaced by steel ones. The cabriolet was joined by the original coupe. By the way, several exclusive XK120s with custom bodies from Bertone, Ghia and Pininfarina were made for selected customers. One of the first American owners of Jaguar was the famous actor Clark Gable.


Porsche 356 Speedster

Porsche 356 Speedster

Ferdinand Porsche met the end of the war in the Austrian town of Gmünd, where he moved his design bureau back in 1944. Soon, at the request of the French Ministry of Justice, the designer was arrested and spent 20 months in prison. At the same time, the Austrian government confiscated all the assets of the design office, effectively depriving Porsche of his livelihood. However, this did not prevent the famous engineer in June 1947 to start designing a promising sports coupe model 356.

The leading designer was the son of Ferdinand Porsche - Ferry, he was assisted by an experienced engineer Carl Rabe, and the creation of the body took Erwin Komenda. To make the project cheaper, the 356th was based on standard Beetle units, but the body was designed from scratch, taking as a basis the design of the pre-war sports prototype Porsche 64. The first model Porsche 356/1 was assembled in March 1948. It was a mid-engine roadster with an aluminum body on a tubular frame, equipped with a 1.1-liter VW opposition engine.

In contrast to the Beetle, the engine was placed not in the rear overhang, but between the passenger compartment and the rear wheels. This arrangement allowed to achieve almost ideal weight distribution on the axles, which favorably affected the handling. The engine itself was modernized: new cylinder-head with enlarged valves and more productive carburetor Solex were installed. As a result, the power from 25 hp increased to 35 hp. The running gear with independent torsion bar suspension, drum brakes and steering were borrowed from the Beetle without changes.

Engine weakness, as well as insufficient strength of the open body. As a consequence, in 1949, the second version of Porsche 356/2 with coupe body and forced to 40 hp engine appeared. The car was completely recomposed: the chassis was shortened a little, and the engine was placed behind the rear axle. The appearance of the car was also significantly changed. Erwin Komenda designed a streamlined 2-door body "pontoon" with voluminous fenders, large headlights and graceful downward sloping roof, passing into a sloping rear end. About forty cars were assembled in Gmund, from what these cars received the unofficial name Porsche Gmund.

Almost immediately Porsche 356 was recognized among enthusiasts. The car with excellent handling and rather light streamlined body (Cx 0,29) showed itself well in auto races. In 1951, the 356 won the Le Mans race, after which the car received orders on both sides of the Atlantic.

By that time, the prudent Ferry Porsche had rented the workshops of the Reutter bodybuilding company near Munich, where he also set up the assembly of Porsche 356 with a cheaper steel body. In March 1951, the 500th car was ceremonially released, and five months later the thousandth Porsche car left the factory gates. In the same year, the production of two new modifications - 356/1100 and 356/1300 with 1.1 liter (40 hp) and 1.3 liter (46 hp) engines took place. The process of modernization of the Porsche 356 did not stop there, and in 1952 the next series of Porsche 356/1500 and 356/1500S with 1.5-liter engine with an output of 55 hp and 75 hp, respectively. In addition to the new engine, the features of this modification were improved brakes, reinforced suspension and fully synchronized 4-speed manual gearbox.

In 1954, there was a modification of Porsche 356 Speedster with a simplified interior, shortened body, reduced windshield and extended doors. Such a car could accelerate up to 170 km/h! Gradually, from an unassuming tourist car, the 356 began to turn into a formidable sports car.

In September 1955, production of a new series of Porsche 356A with updated exterior and modernized technology began. The basic version of the car was equipped with a 1.6-liter engine with an output of 60 hp. Its forced variant for roadster Speedster-D, gave already 75 hp. In addition, there was a sporty 1.5-liter 1500RS engine with modernized cylinder heads with an output of 100 hp, which began to be installed in a comfortable special version of the Porsche 356 Carrera.

Exactly four years later, the fourth series Porsche 356B was launched. By that time, 70% of cars produced by Porsche were exported to the U.S., so the new cars were designed to meet the demands of overseas customers. As a consequence, the cars lost a little in dynamism, but became more comfortable and luxurious in interior decoration. The base model 1600 was equipped with a 1.6-liter engine with an output of 90 hp. In addition, Porsche Speedster changed its name to Porsche Roadster, and in 1961 the most powerful Carrera modification with a 2-liter engine with an output of 130 hp saw the light.

In 1963, the 356B was replaced by the 356C series. It included two main modifications 1600C with 75 hp and 1600SC with 95 hp. The main novelties were disc brakes on all wheels and more accurate worm steering mechanism by ZF.

The Syria 356C was produced for only two years. By that time, the model was completely outdated and had no potential for development. Germans understood it well and in the early 1960s began to prepare a replacement in the form of Porsche 911. In 1965, the first production car Porsche went to rest. A total of 76,313 copies of this beautiful model were produced.


Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport Coupé Saoutchik

Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport Coupé Saoutchik

The recovery from World War II was the dawn for many industrial giants, including the automobile industry. During this period, the French brand Talbot-Lago introduced one of its most famous cars, the T26 Grand Sport Coupe, whose bodywork was executed by the Franay atelier. This car quickly became a benchmark of luxury and high performance.

In 1947, French automaker Talbot-Lago released one of the most exciting models in the history of the automotive industry - the T26 Grand Sport Coupe. This model was a true revival of the brand after the devastating effects of the war, when many automakers were forced to rethink their approaches and adapt to new economic realities.

The T26 Grand Sport Coupe was developed on the basis of the previous Talbot-Lago sports models with more advanced technology and design. The new model was based on the already proven chassis with independent spring suspension, which provided excellent handling and comfort at high speeds.

Special attention was paid to the engine. A 4.5-liter engine with six cylinders and two overhead shafts was used, which was modified to achieve more power and better dynamics. This engine allowed for 170 horsepower and was important in improving the overall performance of the car.

The body design of the T26 Grand Sport Coupe by Atelier Saoutchik was particularly refined. Saoutchik, known for its luxurious and unique car bodies, created an exclusive and stylish appearance that emphasized the elitism and prestige of the model.

The launch of this model marked a new stage in the history of Talbot-Lago as a symbol of the French automobile industry's emergence on the world stage after the war, demonstrating innovation and craftsmanship in automobile manufacturing.


Cisitalia 202

Cisitalia 202

Piero Dusio was a motor racing driver in the 1930s. After retiring from the world of motor racing, he founded a company that sold goods ranging from textiles to sports accessories and racing bicycles. Capitalizing on his good fortune, he opened a factory in Turin and financed the production of a series of cars. Even before the outbreak of war, in 1939, he built a prototype of the Cisitalia. Cisitalia is an abbreviation of the full name of the firm Consorzio Industriale Sportiva Italia (Consorzio Industriale Sportiva Italia). Dusio had extensive plans and wanted to produce sports cars and single-seater racing models. He used the FIAT 1100 as the basis for them. Dusio's cars cost only 1 thousand f.p. and reached a speed of 161 km/h. For a couple of years they were very popular in European motorsport. 48 such cars were sold. The attempt to create a racing formula of Cisitalia was not successful.

In addition, Dusio was going to create a team to participate in the Grand Prix and allocated a large amount of money for the creation of Porsche (Porsche) single-seater car model "360", which he assumed would be driven by his friend Tazio Nuvolari (Tazio Nuvolari). The head of the company's racing team was Carlo Abarth, who later became famous for his own designs. The model created by Porsche turned out to be a prototype with a mid-mounted 12-cylinder horizontal engine with a power of 300 hp and all-wheel drive. The car could not be fully completed as Dusio ran out of money. It was never raced. A few years later it was finalized and tested, but they did not dare to put it on the competition.

The Cisitalia 202 sports car project was more serious and successful. Undoubtedly, the coupe created by Pinifarina looked very elegant and determined the direction of development for several years ahead. This car took a place in New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1947. Dusio himself said of the model: "It can be used for everyday driving and long journeys, with a high chance of success in national and international competitions". The Cisitalia 202 was fitted with a variety of bodies. The cabriolet was not as spectacular as the coupe, but was in great demand in the United States. It was even bought by Henry Ford II in 1948.

In parallel with the "202", compact sports models were built in small quantities. Theoretically, a car with a 1.1 liter engine could not compete in auto racing, but the legendary racer Tazio Nuvolari did not believe it. In the 1947 Mille Miglia (Mille Miglia), he overtook most of the competitors in rainy weather. It was only towards the end of the event, when the water disrupted the electrical system, that his "toy" car was overtaken by a 2.9-liter Alfa Romeo (Alfa Romeo). Cisitalia finished second. Unfortunately for Dusio, the firm's success in Italy was fleeting. After 1948 it did not produce a single sports car, and in 1950 it was closed. Dusio moved to Argentina, where under the same brand he produced cars with Willys (Willys) units.

In 1952, Dusio returned to Italy. He set about creating a new car using the old chassis and FIAT's 1100cc engine, but was unsuccessful. At the same time he demonstrated a prototype of a 2.8-liter Cisitalia sports car. With a power of 160 hp, it was supposed to reach a speed of 220 km/h and provide serious competition to Ferrari (Ferrari). The car used a marine 4-cylinder BMP overhead camshaft engine and gearbox (could you find anything less suitable for a high-class car?) and a de Dion rear axle. Things did not go any further than the prototype. By the end of the 50's Cisitalia had become the production car development arm of the FIAT Group and finally closed in 1965. Cisitalia will be remembered for a stillborn Grand Prix car, a beautiful small sporty 1.1-liter model, an elegant two-seater with the index "202".

Cisitalia did not have the ability to build its own engines and gearboxes, so Dusio used a FIAT engine and running gear for the 202. FIAT 1100 components were chosen because they were cheaper. The "1100" series included many variants, but the "508C" (1937-48), produced in Turin in large numbers, was taken as a basis. The company was linked with FIAT and engineer Dante Giacosa (Dante Giacosa), who was asked by Dusio to create a sports car "202". Giacosa's reputation was high (in 50-60-ies he held the post of technical head of FIAT), so the car turned out to be very interesting. Its basis was a tubular rigid frame, which did not require expensive tooling for its manufacture. By the way, the tubes themselves came from the stocks of production of racing bicycles. The front suspension was independent from FIAT 500 Topolino, and the rear axle was from FIAT 1100.

The engine with a working volume of 1.1 liters developed a power of 50 hp, but for a sports car it was increased to 65 hp, which allowed to reach a maximum speed of 177 km/h. The bodies came only from Italian specialized firms, mainly from Pininfarina and Frua (Frua). They were open or classic coupe fastback. There is no exact data on the number of cars produced, but apparently 100 coupes, 60 convertibles and up to 50 cars with other body types were sold.

Created by the Italian "atelier" Pininfarina 202 Gran Sport (1946) took a place in the New York Museum of Modern Art as "one of the best cars of all time". Only 153 cars were built, 13 of them with convertible bodywork.


Buick Roadmaster

Buick Roadmaster

In the year of its fiftieth anniversary Buick released a new model - Buick Skylark and Buick Roadmaster, which continued the work of all previous models with their capabilities and power. So Buick Roadmaster received a motor of enormous power - eight-cylinder, 188 strong, which could accelerate this heavy car to speeds of more than 260 kilometers per hour on tests. It was in the forties and sixties that Buick acquired its famous, rocket-like profile, for which it was much loved by Americans.

In fact, all Detroit production at the end of the decade was based on the 1942 range. However, the '49 Buick Roadmaster Sedanet received an updated body, distinguished by eight "mouse holes" on the sides of the front fenders, four on each side.

"Mouse holes" décor was nicknamed with the easy hand of the famous British cartoonist Russell Brockbank: in his drawing published in the English magazine "Motor", a cheerful mouse jumped out of such a round hole in the side of the car entering the corner. At first, "minks" were really through holes and served for ventilation of under-hood space, - but soon they were considered ineffective and besides provoking accelerated corrosion of front wings. Since then, they sent purely decorative functions.

By the way, two-door closed body with sloping top ("fastback" in modern way) each of GM departments named in its own way: at Chevrolet it was "aerosedan", at Pontiac - "torpedo-sedan-coupe" and so on. The corresponding model of Buick department was called "sedanet".

Apart from Brooklin, no one else in the world makes this car. Lastly, a couple of words from a connoisseur of Brooklin's one-of-a-kind products. These more than weighty, marvelously painted all-metal models do not have such detailed elaboration with full detailing, which is inherent in modern samples, it is more like a car sculpture, designed to convey the plasticity and spirit of the original. They bring a sense of weight and solidity to the collection; and look like a dusty bottle of wine half a century old at the bar amidst the glittering multicolor of imported and local booze. In 1991, the former top of the lineup, the Buick Roadmaster was essentially just a Chevrolet Caprice Classic with slightly modified body styling.


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