I consider myself a fan of industrial designer Raymond Loewy. He basically created the modern concept of an industrial designer. He would drive a dune buggy in an ascot. And he designed some great-looking cars, like the Studebaker Avanti. He also did some pretty horrific things to some lovely Jaguars, too.
Loewy was known for customizing his own personal cars. Sometimes, the results turned out quite well, like his interesting re-thinking of a huge Cadillac, while others, like his re-bodied BMW 507, maybe weren’t so hot.
I’m not exactly sure what Raymond Loewy had against Jaguars, though, but it sure seems like he was exercising some sort of vendetta against them, because both of his Jaguar re-bodying projects managed to turn some truly lovely cars into things that are, um, well, interesting.
Let’s start with the later one he did, because it’s more of a mild re-design, and I want to build up, even if there’s just two examples here. This car was from 1966, and was based on a Jaguar E-Type, arguably one of the most beautiful cars ever designed.
Loewy used this as his personal car, and gave it a pretty significant facelift. The whole front end is different, with quad, under plexi headlamps replacing the E-Types signature recessed lamps, and a large grille that’s sort of the same shape as a Bugeye Sprite grille, but larger.
The hood also gets a bulge and scoop, and around back the car gets Corvair taillights, a bigger rear window, and, instead of allowing the exhausts to exit, hidden, through the bodywork as on the original, the mufflers and exhaust pipes are splayed out to either side, held in place by a pair of horizontal rods.
It’s not a bad looking car, really, but so much of the sleek elegance of the original E-Type is destroyed in the changes here. There’s also strange details like the huge, fussy gas cap and plexiglass spoiler that just don’t seem to make much sense.
Really, he made a beautiful car less beautiful, but, it’s not terrible, and it’s still interesting. I don’t hate it, but I can’t call it an improvement.
More dramatic is what Loewy did to a Jaguar XK140 back in 1955. For reference, here’s an original Jaguar XK140:
Lovely, right? Here’s Loewy’s take on the car:
Did you do a spit take? Maybe a little, right?
I mean, I think his take is actually pretty amazing and cool, and I’d eat a taco of bees to drive it, no question.
But I also have to admit it’s something of a design disaster.
Here, steel yourself and look at it some more:
There’s so much going on there. They’re not all bad ideas, and I think it’s really quite striking from the side, but the combined mass of everything, along with that way overdone front just makes the whole car a sort of fascinating, spectacular, glorious mess.
The story of the car was that it started as a design study in 1954 for the Ferrari Europa. The body was built by Boanao, based on a quarter-scale model Loewy’s team built in South Bend, Indiana.
The wedge-like design proved tricky for the designers to figure out solutions for the lights and grille, but ultimately the project got nixed not because of the strangeness of the design, but because Ferrari didn’t want to piss off Pininfarina by two-timing them with some other design house.
Taken by the design and with the body already being built, Loewy realized a Jaguar XK140 had just about the same wheelbase as the planned Ferrari project, so a Jag chassis was sourced and the body was mounted on that.
The hood had to gain a bulge to accomodate the taller Jaguar engine, but it all pretty much worked. Lowey used the car while in Paris, and eventually sold it to heavyweight boxer Archie Moore for $25,000, which would be well over $200,000 today.
Unfortunately for Moore, the car was destroyed in a fire in 1957. I feel bad, because he sure looks thrilled in that bonkers thing in that picture up there. He was smart to get rid of those horns, too.