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Magnificent and Exotic Body Styles

The 1930s saw the ultimate flowering of the coachbuilder’s art. The most exotic chassis, often adapted from state-of-the-art racing cars into road going performance machines, were dressed in the most stylish, streamlined, luxurious, and even decadent bodywork the world had yet seen. It is no surprise that style-conscious France contributed much to this period; even medium-sized French cars were given stunning bodywork.

Cadillac V16 two-seater roadster, 1930


Engine7,413 cc, V16
Top speed95 mph (153 km/h)

The ultimate U.S. status symbol, the Cadillac V16 was a vast car with effortless performance. This rare two-seater belonged to Otis Chandler, publisher of the Los Angeles Times.

Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Coupe, 1938


Engine2,905 cc, straight-eight
Top speed100 mph (161 km/h)

Based on the 8C 35 Grand Prix chassis, the 2900B was the finest roadgoing supercar from Alfa Romeo. A handful were sold with this elegant body by Touring.

Hispano-Suiza K6, 1934


Engine5,184 cc, straight-six
Top speed90 mph (145 km/h)

The final model from this illustrious Paris car maker was given some fine bodies. This close-coupled sedan had distinctive overlapping doors-a style that saw a revival 70 years later.

Lancia Astura, 1933


Engine2,973 cc, V8
Top speed79 mph (127 km/h)

With its narrow-angle overhead-cam V8 engine, the Astura was one of Italy’s finest pre-war chassis. This 4th Series Cabriolet was bodied by Pinin Farina.

Auburn Speedster, 1935


Engine4,596 cc, straight-eight
Top speed104 mph (167 km/h)

Just 500 Speedsters were built in 1935-36, making them highly sought after. Each was tested at 100 mph (160 km/h), which was achievable thanks to 148 bhp from the supercharged engine.

Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante, 1935


Engine3,257 cc, straight-eight
Top speed120 mph (193 km/h)

A mere 17 of these supremely elegant vehicles with low suspension were built. Designed by Jean Bugatti, they had twin-cam engines and independent front suspension.

Mercedes-Benz 500K Special Roadster, 1934


Engine5,018 cc, straight-eight
Top speed102 mph (164 km/h)

Using the world’s first all-independent suspension, with coil springs and shock absorbers, the 500K offered unparalleled comfort and matching performance.

Peugeot 401 Eclipse, 1934


Engine1,720 cc, straight-four
Top speed68 mph (109 km/h)

Georges Paulin patented the powered retractable hardtop. Several 1930s Peugeots used it, including 79 of the 401. The system became common 70 years later.

Citroën 11 Normale Roadster, 1935


Engine1,911 cc, straight-four
Top speed68 mph (109 km/h)

The Citroën 11 was one of the most revolutionary cars of the 1930s. It had monocoque construction, front-wheel drive, a wet-liner engine, and synchromesh gears.

Peugeot 402 Darl’Mat, 1938


Engine1,991 cc, straight-four
Top speed95 mph (153 km/h)

An exotic and expensive body by Paulin, complete with retracting windshield or bubble-top, made this one of the most desirable Peugeots. One came in fifth at Le Mans in 1938.

Marmon Sixteen, 1932


Engine8,049 cc, V16
Top speed106 mph (171 km/h)

Faster than Cadillac’s V16, the Marmon Sixteen was advertised as “The World’s Most Advanced Car” due to its cast-aluminum engine. This convertible is by Le Baron.

Delahaye 135M Figoni et Falaschi, 1936


Engine3,557 cc, straight-six
Top speed105 mph (169 km/h)

The sporting 135 chassis, especially in larger-engined 135M form, attracted some truly flamboyant coachwork. This roadster is from Paris’s most adventurous coachbuilder, Figoni et Falaschi.

Lincoln Continental, 1939


Engine4,378 cc, V12
Top speed90 mph (145 km/h)

Originally hand-built, the Continental was Lincoln’s finest car. It began as a one-off made for Edsel Ford, but was so admired that Edsel put it into production.

Talbot T150C SS, 1937


Engine3,994 cc, straight-six
Top speed115 mph (185 km/h)

Anthony Lago revived Talbot with modern engines and suspension. The “Teardrop,” designed by Figoni et Falaschi, was equally at home at Le Mans or cruising the Riviera.


It is a quote. The Definitive Visual History Of The Automobile 2011

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