Raymond Loewy was born in Paris in 1893, and stood out from a very early age in various fields of design. It would not be until he emigrated to the United States when he would begin to develop some of his most recognized designs, such as the logo for Lucky Strike cigarettes or that for Shell gas stations.
Loewy achieved great prestige with his designs, giving locomotives and appliances a unique and modern aesthetic among a long list of works. For these reasons He is considered the father of industrial design in the United States..
HUPMOBILE, FIRST CONTACT WITH AUTOMOBILE DESIGN
After the crash of '29 and the beginning of the Great Depression, financial activity and production in the automobile industry slowed down. Hupmobile was one of the companies in the automobile sector that was most affected by the economic recession, and although their cars had sold quite well so far, they were looking for a way to generate interest in their models in this time of crisis.
For this reason the company contacts Raymond Loewy to redesign the Hupmobile range. The new cars are presented in 1932 and are praised for their beauty, but the cars that were truly iconic at this stage were the 1934 models, baptized Aerodynamic for their revolutionary streamlined shapes with the headlights integrated into the fins, and which put them on the same level as the avant-garde chrysler airflow which also appeared that year.
LOEWY'S STAGE AT STUDEBAKER
After his time at Hupmobile, Loewy signs for Studebaker, with a first contact in 1936 as a design consultant, and finally in 1938 as a designer. One of his first measures was to implement a very modern new logo, which replaces the previous one that the company had been using since the beginning of the XNUMXth century, and which was already quite outdated.
In 1939 a new model appeared, the Studebaker Champion, with a design signed by Raymond Loewy and Virgil Exner, since one of this designer's first jobs was in Loewy's company. This car was a success and doubled Studebaker's sales compared to the previous year.
The beginning of the collaboration between the Loewy company and Studebaker occurred shortly before the start of World War II. The conflict forced the production of automobiles for civilian use to cease to focus manufacturing on war material.
But the measures imposed during the war years did not prevent working with materials that were not used by the army for companies unrelated to automobile production, so the Loewy design firm spent their time between 1941 and 1945 designing new cars for Studebaker. Car production resumed in 1945, but The first American brand to introduce the first post-war models was Studebaker in 1947., ahead of Detroit's Big Three.
The new cars introduced by Studebaker were very modern and different from the cars seen before the war. Particularly striking was the coupe called Starlight, with a 180° wraparound rear glass which allowed great rear visibility. The coupe's peculiar proportions made it a common joke that you couldn't tell if the cars were coming or going.
The controversy about this car comes from the authorship of its design. Virgil Exner was in charge of designing it, but he was fired from the company in 1944, so the credit is often wrongly attributed to Loewy, who fired Exner personally due to his poor relationship.
In 1953, Loewy presented the new Studebaker Starliner coupé, one of its most recognized automobiles, becoming the brand's flagship, and influencing the later Studebaker Hawks, which had the same designer as its creator and which would close the Loewy-Studebaker collaboration stage in 1955, at least temporarily.
DESIGN PROPOSALS FOR EUROPEAN SPORTS CARS
After his departure from Studebaker in 1955, Raymond Loewy returned to the old continent to create a series of futuristic European sports cars with his personal touch. The first, in 1955, was a futuristic reinterpretation of a Jaguar XK140 which was lost in a fire in 1957.
In 1955 the prototype of the BMW 507 with a design signed by Albrecht Graf Goertz, and in 1957 he began working at Loewy's company. In 1957, Raymond Loewy himself presented his own interpretation of the German sports car.
Finally, in 1960, Raymond Loewy signed the last of his designs on European cars, this time on un lancia flaminia Coupe baptized as Loraymo. All of these cars served to take some of the stylistic cues that would culminate in Loewy's next car.
STUDEBAKER AVANTI AND COCA-COLA
Among his design proposals for exotic sports cars, Raymond Loewy is commissioned to the only redesign of Coca-Cola bottles since the early XNUMXth century, with the white logo as the main contribution. Loewy had already acknowledged his admiration for the iconic and recognizable shapes of the bottles of this soft drink, going so far as to say about them:
The Coca-Cola bottle has it all as a product: well crafted, logical, with optimization of the material and pleasant to look at. The most perfect container for everyday liquids and one of the classics in the history of packaging.
En 1961 Studebaker, under the command of a new president, contacts Loewy again for the development of a new personal luxury and semi-sports car. Some of the inspirations for the design of the new car were the Jaguar E-Type, presented that year, and the already mentioned BMW 507.
The car would be presented in 1962, and was named Studebaker Avanti, becoming an icon of the American automobile industry in the early 60s, which left aside the stylistic excesses of the late 50s and cars with large fins and many chrome elements.
In its place it was replaced by the Coca-Cola shape style, named for the flared shapes at the rear of the car. A way of designing cars that in 1963 General Motors would implement in the Corvette C2 and the Buick Riviera, and which many other manufacturers also copied well into the 70s.
The modern Avanti with a fiberglass body was not the sales success that was expected. The company expected to manufacture 20.000 units in its first year, but the reality was that They only sold 1.200 cars in 1962 and another 4.600 in 1963.. Raymond Loewy was very proud of this car and it is known that he owned at least two examples.
Its features were surprising for the time. There were several mechanics available; the R1, with 4,7 liters, naturally aspirated and a four-barrel carburetor, the R2, with the same displacement and equipped with a supercharger, and the exclusive R3, also supercharged, but with 5 liters, and which produced 400 HP, making who broke 29 speed records in 1963. Work was also done on the R4 and R5 mechanics that were never sold to the public, with the last of these developing 575 HP and capable of reaching more than 300 kilometers per hour.
Aside from the Avanti, Studebaker's other models were not selling well, and the brand announced the ceasing manufacturing of its cars in the United States at the end of 1963, with manufacturing in Canada ceasing in 1967.
However The disappearance of Studebaker did not mean the end of the Avanti. The license, manufacturing tools and production plant for the car were acquired by Nate Altman and Leo Newman, who had owned Studebaker dealerships.
So, in 1965 they launched the Avanti II, a car whose first units curiously arrived in Spain. The first Avanti IIs were assembled from components that Studebaker never used, but later they used mechanics and chassis from General Motors and Ford.
Photographs by Raymond Loewy, Studebaker, Hupmobile and Javier Rucabado.