The Jalopy Journal recently posted a “listicle” of The Ten Most Beautiful Cars of the 1930s. When it comes to beauty, you know it’s the subjective opinion of one person.
Considering the website has a Hot Rod bent, it should be no surprise that there is a Ford bias, not to mention an American bias. Let’s evaluate some of their choices.
Full disclosure: I’m a muscle car guy. I started off liking finned creations but quickly learned that horsepower had more romance. Pontiac, in particular, had a brand mix of style and substance that made them the one to watch, but there’s plenty of great cars beyond muscle, from the Buick Riviera (lemme give a shout out to the underrated 1966-67 Rivs!) and Olds Toronado to the 1962 Sport Fury/Polara 500 twins and ’65 Comet. But can any of these cars compare to what designers were coming up in the 1930s? Streamlining inspired futuristic designs, and Art Deco styling demonstrated class for all purses and pockets.
1939 Lincoln Zephyr coupe: Yeah, the Zephyr coupe is an attractive car, but should it be in any Top 10 list? Its front end resembles the Ford’s but it’s on a much longer wheelbase, which gives it more class. And what does the ’39 have that the ’38 does not? Overall, a triumph for near-luxury style before the term entered our vernacular.
1939 Ford Deluxe coupe or convertible: Similar to the Lincoln above, so to me this is a Hot Rodder’s bias. I love how the Everyman’s Car is a looker but, c’mon, there’s so many more notable cars out there that exhibit the best that the era has to offer.
1939 Graham Model 39 convertible: Contemporary critical acclaim fell to deaf ears on this one. It’s even made some ugly lists (I recall one in Life magazine around 1982), but a good choice nonetheless. But should it garner more notice than Graham’s landmark 1932 models? That’s the one that influenced the whole industry . . .
1933-34 Graham Blue Streak coupe: Maybe the author liked this car better than the ’32, but it’s like saying the ’64 Corvette is the best Vette of the 1960s because the split-window ’63 didn’t do it for ya. Skirted fenders were but one of the pioneering styling features.
1936 Cord 810: Hard to argue with this one. While ubiquitous, it’s timeless. The ’37 812 is the same car, though.
1936 Ford coupe: Again, their Hot Rod roots show straight through. Is the ’36 Ford a nice platform for talented body men to work their magic? Sure! But does that mean this car is among the nicest cars from the 1930s?
1935 Auburn 851 Speedster: Auburn wasn’t a luxury brand, but they had some killer cars. The Speedster has been a major collectible for over 40 years, and it’s perhaps the best interpretation of the boat tail style. Not bad for a car that wasn’t coach-built! Car continued into 1936 as the 852.
1933-34 Duesenberg J roadster: How can you not include a Duesy? But at least get the spelling right, yo (who’s their proofreader?)! Still a curious choice because all cars were coach-built, meaning each one was different. Everything about the brand was meaty and overbuilt, but it’s the coach builders who were creating the beauty – which one do you prefer? Clark Gable’s SSJ? The one built for the Maharaha?
1934 DeSoto Airflow coupe: Why the DeSoto and not Chrysler’s version too? A great car that was ahead of its time, and tremendously influential too, but not a beauty.
1933 Lincoln KB Victoria Coupe: Yes, Lincoln had some nice cars. But pit this one against the Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow and the Lincoln doesn’t compete. Admittedly, the writer’s father owned a similar car, but it’s merely a nice example of stylish luxury for the time.
So where are any of the Harley Earl Cadillacs and LaSalles? Packard? Marmon? Stutz? All those American brands had killer examples of art on wheels. And was this list intentionally limited to American cars? Bentley fans have a case for some of their cars.