Automobiles in the Pre World War II Era

Automobiles in the Pre World War II Era




This era is referred to as the ‘Classic Era” and it is apparently between the Great Depression in 1930 and the post World War II year of 1946. It is during this period that cars and automobiles with the integrated fenders and fully closed bodies began to make its mark and dominate sales.


The Classic Cars and their Features

This period saw a radical change in the look and therefore usage of cars. They could now be used to ferry passengers and also their luggage without causing any inconvenience. The fully closed bodies were in saloon or sedan style and incorporated a book or a trunk at the rear, where the luggage could be stored and carried.


The end of the classic era witnessed the phasing out of the old open-top touring cars, phaetons and runabouts.  The new cars had running boards, wings and headlight which were gradually being integrated with the body of the automobiles.


Strictly speaking almost all of the mechanical and automobile technology which is used in today’s automobiles had been invented by the 1930s. They were invented but not put to use maybe because of the lack of other application technology required. These inventions probably went into oblivion until some other researcher came along and re-invented it and put it to use.


One example is the front wheel drive, which was found in the road cars made by Alvis and Cord and even in the racing cars by Millers as early as 1897.  But it was re introduced by Andre Citroen in 1934 when the Traction Avant was launched.  Similarly independent suspension was initially invented by Amedee Bollee in early 1873 but was not used in production then. In 1933 it was introduced in the low volume Mercedes-Benz 380 and after that the American automobile makers have been using it widely.


Immediately after the World War II there were a series of worldwide changes in all styling trends including in the automobile sector. In 1946 Crosley and Kaiser-Frazier changed the traditional discrete fenders which were replaceable till now. From that point on all automobiles became bodies enveloped in a basic plan of the automobile.


But this kind of a vehicle may not qualify to be called a classic. This is because, the Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) defines classic cars as ones that confined to “the functionally traditional designs of the earlier period” (Pre war). These cars tended to have removable fenders, headlights, a usual vertical grill treatment and trunk. So it is not the period of the vehicle but the period of the design that mattered according to the CCCA to decide if a car is ‘classic’ one or not.


Basically, a classic car is an older car, although the exact definition might vary in different countries.  Some examples of pre war automobiles are, Alvis Speed 20 and 25, Ford V-8 (Model B), Tatra 77, Bugatti Type 57, Citroen Traction Avant, MG T series, Volkswagen Beetle and the Rolls-Royce Phantom III with V 12 engine.