Some of the most recognizable and stunning automobiles in automotive history came from the 1930s. When these vehicles were created, engineering and creativity were pushed to their absolute limits, and design was king.
The automobiles of the 1930s were true works of art, from the svelte curves of the Cadillac V16 to the opulent curves of the Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic.
The most stunning automobiles from the 1930s will be examined in this piece. From the long hoods and flowing fenders to the intricate details and opulent finishes, we’ll examine the design features that made these vehicles unique. We’ll also dig into the past of each vehicle, looking at its construction and distinguishing features.
These old photographs will capture your attention and take you back to when the car was more than just a mode of transportation; it was a sign of status and style, whether you’re a car enthusiast or admire the beautiful design.
Rolls-Royce Phantom I Jonckheere Coupe (1925)
A legendary car known for its one-of-a-kind and stunning style is the Rolls-Royce Phantom I Jonckheere Coupe. Based on a 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I chassis, the vehicle was built by Belgian coachbuilder Jonckheere in 1935.
The Phantom, I Jonckheere Coupe’s style, is distinguished by its aerodynamic, futuristic shape, deemed cutting edge at the time.
The car’s slender, elongated body had a pointed nose, tapered back end, and low roofline, giving it a sporty and aggressive look.
The car’s large, curved windscreen, which blends into the top like a single, uninterrupted piece of glass, is one of its most striking characteristics.
Because the car’s bodywork is completely made of aluminum, Jonckheere was able to create its unique curves and contours.
The interior of the Phantom I Jonckheere Coupe is lavish and opulent, with plush carpets, supple leather chairs, and a variety of chrome and wood details.
No two Jonckheere Coupes are precisely alike because the vehicle was created as one-of-a-kind for a wealthy European family.
Bugatti Type 35B Grand Prix (1925)
From 1924 to 1930, Bugatti built the legendary Type 35 race vehicle at their Molsheim facility. When the factory works squad competed, it had great success.
A diverse group of privateers from all over the globe also purchased it. It invented the idea of a for-sale, race-ready, holistically designed vehicle.
The rear of the vehicle and the arch- or egg-shaped radiator are distinctive features. Ettore Bugatti may have been inspired by the design of the earlier Fiat 804 driven and modified by Pietro Bordino, as evidenced by the tapered stern, also known as a “Bordino tail.” Additionally, the vehicle has come to be associated with being the first to use cast alloy wheels.
Over 1,000 events were won by the Type 35 during its era of racing. After winning 351 races and establishing 47 records in the two years previous, it won the Grand Prix World Championship in 1926.
Type 35 won 14 races a week on average at its peak. Between 1925 and 1929, Bugatti’s Type 35 won the Targa Florio five times in a row.
Duesenberg Model J (1928)
The Duesenberg Automobile & Motors Company built the Model J, a high-end vehicle, from 1928 to 1937.
One of the most powerful vehicles of its era, the vehicle was propelled by a 6.9-liter straight-eight engine that generated 265 horsepower. A remarkable accomplishment for a vehicle at the time, it could travel up to 119 miles per hour.
The Model J was renowned for its ornate design and opulent features, which included a custom-built body, plush interiors, and cutting-edge technical elements like hydraulic brakes and four-wheel independent suspension.
It became a favorite of Hollywood stars, wealthy socialites, and business moguls due to its elegant appearance and excellent performance.
The Duesenberg Model J was a commercial success despite having a high price tag, with about 480 units manufactured throughout its manufacturing period.
Mercedes-Benz 710 SSK Trossi Roadster (1930)
Italian race car racer and engineer Carlo Felice Trossi collaborated with the Mercedes-Benz design team to create the 710 SSK Trossi Roadster. It was built on the Mercedes-Benz SSK sports car, which was already a highly effective vehicle in and of itself.
One of the most potent vehicles of its time, the Trossi Roadster had a 7.1-liter supercharged inline-six motor that generated 300 horsepower.
A four-speed manual transmission, hydraulic brakes, and a torsion bar suspension system were some of its cutting-edge engineering characteristics.
But the Trossi Roadster’s stunning appearance made it stand out. It had a long canopy, flowing lines, and a low-slung body that gave it a sleek and aerodynamic look unmatched by anything else at the time.
Unique styling cues from the vehicle, like the vertical grille and the exposed spare tire, came to represent the Mercedes-Benz brand.
Mercedes-Benz W25 Silver Arrow (1934)
For the 1934 Grand Prix season, which saw the introduction of new regulations but no title, Daimler-Benz AG created the Mercedes-Benz W25.
The European Championship was again held in 1935, and Rudolf Caracciola won it in a W25. The Mercedes-Benz W125 replaced the W25 after it was updated and used until 1937.
Citroën Traction Avant (1934)
The first solid front-wheel-drive automobile is the Citroen Traction Avant. From 1934 to 1957, the French automaker Citroen manufactured various vehicles, primarily executive and four-door saloons, with four or six-cylinder engines. There were made around 760,000 of them.
The Traction Avant pioneered combining front-wheel drive and four-wheel independent suspension into a mass-production, crash-resistant, unitary, monocoque body, even though these features had already been established in the mass market by Auto Union and later others some years earlier. The vehicle was also an early user of rack and pinion steering.
Although the name of the car, “Traction Avant,” literally means “front traction,” emphasized its front-wheel drive power delivery, the car stood out just as much for its much lower profile and stance, which were made possible by the absence of a separate chassis under the car’s unitary body and helped to separate it from its contemporaries.
Auburn 851 SC Boattail Speedster (1935)
The Auburn Automobile Company of Auburn, Indiana, and Union City, Indiana, respectively, produced the Auburn Speedster, an American automobile.
Between 1928 and 1936, 3 vehicles totaling 887 were produced: the V12 series from 1931 to 1934, the dramatic, famous 1935–1936 Supercharged 8, and the “eight” and “big eight” engines.
The Speedster’s maximum speed was 104 mph (167 km/h), thanks to a 4,6-liter water-cooled inline-eight motor that produced up to 150 hp.
Alan Leamy, a stylist, created the first two episodes. Designer Gordon Buehrig, who also created the Cord Model 810, created the Auburn 851 Speedster in 1935. In the 1935 car, Al Jenkins set 70 American speed marks.
Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster (1936)
The Mercedes-Benz 540K Special was one of only 32 models produced and was designed by Friedrich Geiger, a German artist best known for his work on the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, Mercedes-Benz W113 “Pagoda,” and Mercedes-Benz 600 limousine.
It wasn’t among the fastest vehicles offered, with a supercharged 5.4-liter inline eight engine producing up to 180 hp. Even so, it was among the biggest, most opulent, and most expensive vehicles available in the 1930s.
Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering ordered a 540K in 1937 with his family crest on both doors, painted in his preferred shade of “Luftwaffe” blue, which was also his favorite hue. Bulletproof windows and armor plating were present. Goering was called the “Blue Goose” and was frequently captured in automobile photos.
The US Army’s C Company, 326th Engineers, 101st Airborne Division “Screaming Eagles” arrived in Berchtesgaden on May 4, 1945, and seized possession upon discovering the car.
The vehicle served as Major General Maxwell Taylor’s command transport in West Germany until the US Treasury commissioned it. After being delivered to Washington, D.C., it safely completed a victory bond tour nationwide.
At an auction held by the US Army in 1956 at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, Jacques Tunick of Greenwich, Connecticut, won the vehicle for a top bid of $2167.
Auto Union Type C (1936)
Following the company’s 1933 purchase of a Dr. Ferdinand Porsche design, the Auto Union Horch Works in Zwickau, Germany, designed and produced the types A to D of Auto Union Grand Prix racing cars between 1933 and 1939.
The Types A, B, and C, used from 1934 to 1937, had supercharged V16 engines, and the Type D, used in 1938 and 1939 (built to new 1938 rules), had a supercharged 3L V12 that produced nearly 550 horsepower. Of the four Auto Union racing cars, Types A, B, and C were the final models.
Wheelspin could be produced at speeds of more than 100 mph (160 km/h) in all of the designs, and there was noticeable oversteer because of the designs’ extreme power-to-weight ratios. (all models were tail heavy). The Type D’s smaller, lower mass engine, better positioned toward the vehicle’s center of mass, made it simpler to drive.
With drivers like Achille Varzi, Bernd Rosemeyer, Tazio Nuvolari, Ernst von Delius, and Hans Stuck, Auto Unions won 25 races between 1935 and 1937. The seasons of 1936 and 1937 saw great success for Auto Union.
Their primary rival was the Mercedes Benz squad, which also competed in racing with slick, silver vehicles. Until World War II in 1939, the Silver Arrows—as they were known—the two German teams’ cars ruled Grand Prix racing.
Talbot Lago T150C SS Goutte d’Eau (1937)
Giuseppe Figoni, one of the best French coachbuilders before World War II, created the Talbot-Lago Teardrop Coupé, unquestionably one of the most stunning automobiles ever produced.
The T150C SS was known as the Goutte d’Eau (teardrop) because of its round design and sensual contours. It was the epitome of Art Deco.
But it wasn’t just a pretty vehicle; the Talbots of the time also took home many victories, including the 1937 French Grand Prix. Even a standard Talbot Teardrop raced in 1938 24 of Le Mans, finishing third overall.
Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic (1937)
Although strong and lightweight, the material is challenging to work with and cannot be welded, so Bugatti riveted the body pieces together to form the renowned dorsal seam. Although Bugatti used metal for the “production” Atlantic, the dorsal seam rivets remained.
The model’s moniker is a tribute to Jean Mermoz, a friend of Bugatti. The early pilot made history as the first person to fly across the South Atlantic. In 1936, he made a passage of the South Atlantic but never returned.
Only four Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic cars were made, and only three are still in existence. In 1937, the top speed for this variant was 124 mph (200 km/h).
The car’s body was made of aluminum and wood, making it remarkably light (953 kg), and its 3.3-liter inline-eight supercharged engine generated 210 horsepower.
The distinctive Coupé Special or Coupé Aero prototype, also known as the Aérolithe, served as the basis for the Atlantic variants.
Jean Bugatti utilized the Elektron sheet from the aviation sector for the body of this model, which carries chassis number 57 104. 90% of the metal known as Elektron is aluminum and magnesium.
Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B Mille Miglia (1938)
A selection of Alfa Romeo road, race, and sports cars from the 1930s initially made up the Alfa Romeo 8C. Originally a straight 8-cylinder motor, the 8C stands for 8 cylinders.
From its debut in 1931 until its retirement in 1939, the 8C, which Vittorio Jano developed, served as Alfa Romeo’s main racing engine.
The Monoposto “Tipo B” – P3 from 1932 onwards, the world’s first real single-seat Grand Prix racing car, was also used it in addition to the two-seater sports vehicles.
Later engine versions were developed to power the twin-engined 1935 6.3-liter Bimotore, the 1935 3.8-liter Monoposto 8C 35 Type C, and the Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Mille Miglia Roadster. The Touring Spider and Touring Berlinetta were two top-tier coach-built production versions powered by it.
Daimler Double-Six (1932)
Between 1926 and 1938, The Daimler Company Limited of Coventry, England, produced the Daimler Double-Six piston engine, a sleeve-valve V12 engine in four distinct sizes for their flagship vehicles.
A chromium strip running down the middle of the radiator, which first appeared in 1929, helped Daimler Double-Sixes to be distinguished from six-cylinder vehicles. The later Jaguar-made models had a similar identifying mark.
L H Pomeroy, a consultant chief engineer who lived from 1883 to 1941, created this engine to produce high power while being silent and, especially, smooth.
Two 25/85 horsepower Daimler engines’ cylinder blocks were combined with a single crankcase to create the engine by Pomeroy.
Talbot Lago T150 SS Figoni & Falaschi Teardrop Coupe (1937)
The 1937–1955 French production period is when the Talbot Lago T150 SS Figoni & Falaschi Teardrop Coupe was built. The vehicle’s designers, Joseph Figoni and Ovidio Falaschi, were well known for their avant-garde and streamlined creations.
Having a 3.0 liter, the six-cylinder motor with 140 horsepower was what gave the Teardrop Coupe its power. The vehicle’s maximum speed increased to about 115 mph as a result.
The vehicle had a streamlined and svelte body, reducing drag and enhancing speed. Lightweight Aluminum was used to make the car’s body, which further served to lighten the vehicle.
The Teardrop Coupe was arguably one of the most beautiful vehicles of its era. It received numerous honors for its appearance and performance, including the Grand Prix d’Honneur at the 1937 Concours d’Elegance.
Phantom Corsair (1937)
A 1938 car prototype called the Phantom Corsair was constructed. It is a six-passenger, two-door sedan created by Rust Heinz of the H. J. Heinz dynasty and Maurice Schwartz of the Pasadena, California, Bohman & Schwartz coachbuilding firm.
The Corsair is considered ahead of its time because of its futuristic features and styling elements like faired-in fenders and low profile. It was occasionally written off as a failure because it never went into production.
The Cord 810, at the time, was “the most advanced chassis available in the United States,” coupled with the Corsair’s body.
In addition to front-wheel drive, an electrically controlled four-speed preselector gearbox, completely independent suspension, and adjustable shock absorbers, the Cord chassis with a Lycoming 80 V-8 engine also had all of these features.
The Phantom Corsair could travel up to 115 mph (185 km/h) despite carrying a substantial 4,600 lb (2,100 kg), thanks to its modified, naturally aspirated 125 bhp Lycoming engine and its aerodynamic design.
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