The General Motors FastLane blog has a feature this month on the first batch of female auto designers in Detroit, hired by GM Chief of Design Harley Earl. In 1958, Earl put together something called “The Spring Fashion Festival of Women Designed Cars,” which featured some of the ideas these women had, which may or may not have been scheduled for production:
The female designers from the Chevrolet, Cadillac, Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Buick staffs modified two vehicles from each brand to demonstrate the female point of view. Vehicles displayed included six convertibles, a station wagon and three hardtops.
Not a sedan in the bunch. Then again, who remembers sedans from this era?
Along with stunningly detailed interiors and custom hardware, the designers proposed ideas that would lead to improved safety, including retractable seat belts and open door warning lights. The women also focused heavily on storage in the vehicles, and included a variety of compartments for umbrellas, maps, cameras and even picnic supplies.
In 1958, only one automaker had standard seat belts: Saab. And they were lap belts only; the three-point belt we see today was installed in every ’59 Volvo. GM and the rest of Detroit caught on eventually.
Just on the basis of sheer frippery, this might be my favorite of the bunch, designed by, and photographed with, Marjory Ford Pohlman:
… the Buick Special Tampico convertible with an alabaster exterior and accents of flaming orange. The compartment between the bucket seats featured space for binoculars and a camera.
Obviously anticipating my needs half a century down the road. What’s more, no one does citrus-y interiors anymore, and besides, this is a ’58 Buick, which weighed something like 4000 lb, and about 400 lb of that was chrome.