To put an automotive spin on another favorite summer pastime — outdoor cooking — this month, the Historic Vehicle Association is looking to readers to help answer a tough question: What are the best looking grilles in auto design?
According to an April article in the Wall Street Journal, car chrome is making a comeback in China — most notably chrome grilles. “The more garish and gothic the better,” says author Dan Neil, “[to] stroll down the aisles of the Beijing International Automotive show. . . is to be confronted at every corner with a Chinese domestic automobile jeering at you with a mouthful of bling.”
As every American car enthusiasts knows, driving a car with a flashy front end is as American as apple pie. It started slowly enough, in the 1930s, as more and more carmakers began to use fancy hood ornaments, radiator caps, more brass, and chrome to help set the look of their vehicles apart from the competition.
The chromatic age in United States peaked in the 1950s when car-buying Americans were seemingly swimming in postwar wealth. The massive chrome grilles and bumpers produced by automakers in this era were audacious, eye-catching, and in some cases hauntingly complex and overlarge. And car buyers loved them.
While it’s true that other nations fashioned some pretty impressive grilles, such as the stately faces of Rolls-Royce or Mercedes-Benz, the grandest and most flamboyant grilles came out of the 1950s. Some of the most memorable include the 1954 Packard Caribbean; the 1957 Chevy; the 1957 Plymouth Fury; and GM’s fabulous 1953 triplets (the Buick Skylark, Cadillac Eldorado, and Oldsmobile Fiesta).
If you have a favorite grille design from long ago, log your comment below or head on over to the HVA’s Facebook page where you can shoot us a photo and tell us what car you think sports the best looking grille in automotive history. Look for the results in an upcoming issue of HVA eNews.