Design Notes: 1940 Oldsmobile
Below is what I think might be the rear of the previous model. The photo had no date or direct connection in the description but it is the only non-production-looking rear in the bunch so it’s possible.
The memo for that picture is simply, 1940 Oldsmobile proposal.
Since I’m far from an expert on these cars, it’s hard for me to spot differences but these next photos mostly represent detailing variations. The next three were taken on the same day, January 27, 1939.
The memo for the first photo reads, “Jan. 27, 1939; 1940 Olds, BOP.” The note reads, “1940 Oldsmobile proposal, front end; incorrect bumper, grille detail, hood trim.”
The second photo’s memo is the same as the first but the note reads, “1940 Oldsmobile ’70’ 4-door touring sedan proposal; incorrect bumper, grille detail, side moldings, hood trim; front fender trim similar to 1940 90 series.”
Same thing, memo the same but different note with only “1940 Olds “70” 4-door touring sedan proposal” written.
This next one is dated March 7, 1939 and uses an interesting pet name in the memo.
The memo reads, “Olds Torpedo” and the note states, “1940 Oldsmobile proposal, front; incorrect bumper, grille detail, hood trim.”
I think these next four belong together because they are labeled similarly.
The memo for the first image simply says, “1940 Oldsmobile” but the note goes on to say, “1940 Oldsmobile ’70’ 4-door sedan, front proposal; this is a moderately face lifted 1939; bumper, fender, headlamp portion, grille, hood trim differ from 1940 production.”
The second shot has the same memo but the note reads, “1940 Olds ’70’ 4-door touring sedan proposal; door handles, side molding, grille and front treatment differ from production. The wide front fender molding was used (with surface detail changes) on the 1940 90 series only.”
The memo and note for the third shot are repeats. The memo for the fourth picture, the rear, is a repeat but the note reads, “1940 Olds 70 proposal; incorrect trim including trunk emblem and bumper guards.”
These are details I’d bet most Oldsmobile fans (I’m lookin’ at you 98 REGENCY) might notice but even your average car nut like me probably wouldn’t.
These next two shots are labeled the same, and they may even appear identical. But they’re not.
I didn’t originally think there was any difference between these next two pictures but there is. If I had thought about it ahead of time I would have lined the cars in the images up better, to flip back and forth. Even as they are, you can see small detail changes, such as the horizontal trim on the hoods and the parking light housings.
The memos for the two above are the same, “1940 Oldsmobile,” but the notes differ. The first one reads, “1940 Oldsmobile proposal, front; hood moldings, grille, bumper guards incorrect.” The second reads, “1940 Oldsmobile proposal, front; hood moldings, grille, bumper guards incorrect.”
These last two pre-production pictures are especially cool because they are of the high-end 90 Series.
For both the notes are simple and read as above, “1940 Oldsmobile.” The memos tell a little more but are identical for the two, “1940 Oldsmobile “90” 4-door sedan proposal; body side molding, skirt medallion, bumper guards, bumper, hinges, grille detail, hood trim differ from production.”
GM was nice enough to provide me with a couple of production pictures (that’s in addition to the ads and photos in this article).
The one on the left is a 1940 Oldsmobile 70 Series four-door touring sedan while the one on the right is a 90 Series four-door touring sedan. An absolutely beautiful design that was a sort of bridge between the original horseless carriage look of a cab with disconnected fenders to the unified front end that provides necessary under-hood space.
Wrap that up with its industry-first fully automatic transmission and the 1940 Oldsmobiles were indeed interesting automobiles.
Well, I want to thank you for taking the time to go with me through some of GM’s archived materials. I wasn’t sure they’d have information from that far back to share so they sure surprised me. I am ever so grateful to GM and my friend there that patiently and graciously works with me. And we can thank JohnnyD for coming up with the suggestion for this round of Design Notes.
Photo credit: General Motors, Heritage and Design Centers