Pontiac Grand Prix - Wide like us.

I used to hate cars like this '69 Grand Prix. Back in the early nineteen ninety somethings, I loved bulbous designs like the '91 Ceclica. I thought cars with ovoid windows looked futuristic. Then the whole jelly bean thing caught on, and while there were some downright fetching executions of the rounded look, most were clueless "me too" designs with no inspiration. Just trend followers.
In the same way, there are countless cars on the road right now trying to do the "creases and edges" thing, and failing horribly. For example, anything designed by Chris Bangle, like the BMW Z4, makes me want to scoop my eyes out with a melon baller. But if I was really thinking, I'd scoop out Chris Bangle's eyes.

UPDATE: Upon reflection, it is possible that Chris Bangle has already had his eyes scooped out. That would certainly help explain the styling of the Z4.

Also, the timeless horror of the Pontiac Aztek still makes young mothers shield their children's eyes when it drives by.

So, now that I'm all old and wise, the Pontiac Grand Prix in this ad looks pretty good, I think. It's got definite edges, but they're not irrational. It's chunky and slablike, but it still looks sort of classy. It is pretty hilarious, however, that a car thirty feet long can be called a "coupe", but that's 1969 for you. You could just as easily build a shopping mall with only two doors. "Shall we go shopping this afternoon?" "Yes! Let's go to that new mall. It's a coupe you know, which means it's sporty."

The pictures probably started as photographs, which were then painted over and idealized by an artist. The green one is lit especially nicely. Dark studio. One big light above and behind, to get the light to bounce off the hood, right into the lens. Then there are a few reflectors off to the right and behind the camera so we can see the wheel arches and grille. The swirls on the hood are no accident. I expect there were carefully arranged cards hung from the ceiling to block the light and throw shadows that warp so excitingly over the planes of the hood. They probably spent hours lighting the set.

Once again, the people are completely rendered. I promise you they weren't there in the studio. To keep the focus on the car, they were painted kind of loosey-goosey, without much detail. The artist probably just grabbed some stock photography as reference and knocked out the happy couple in an hour or so. I couldn't do it nearly that fast, of course, but these guys were super pros.

If I had a rumpus room full of sacks of gold, I'd probably do the Neil Young thing and find one of these old boats, have it restored cosmetically and have the guts replaced with an electric drive train.


Craig said...

Interesting things about the GP:

* Check out the driver's cockpit. Everything is pointed right at him. (And I mean "him." Dames didn't drive GPs.) You're chilly over in the passenger seat? Tough shit. You don't like Herb Alpert? Take the goddamned bus, toots.

* All Grand Prixs start with a 400 cubic inch engine with a four-barrel. If you knew what you were doing, you could order that '69 with a 428 and a 4-speed. Yow.

* Note the exterior door handle. To open the door, you push a little grooved nub with your thumb, and then the actual handle rotates out of a pocket in the door, so the handles remain flush. You can get similar door handles on cars today, but they cost $300,000 and up. Back in the 1960s, anybody with a job could afford nice, thoughtful design.

* The Grand Prix was never this low, long, or wide. Boulevard Photographic - which put this ad together - stretched the images to their limits. In person, they don't really look as imposing as this car did.

Craig said...

Here's a better look at the door handle:


Phil Are Go! said...

Hah! I knew you'd be able to jump in with some good data obscura, Craig! Thanks for being on the job!

Anonymous said...

Those door handles were thumb eaters! They got all of us in my family more than once.

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