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          A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

History History General Motors
        1945 - 1960

Take a look these fins, some would call it arrogance, others say, the whole of the American energy, after the Second World War, can be seen in them. At the beginning of the fifties, it seemed that nothing could touch this country. They came out of the war as the victors, even if with severe losses, e.g., with their invasion of the continent from England (D-Day). However, their home country itself was not affected, and for only about two years, had the war production been greater than the civil production. The economy could switch over relatively quickly again.

The car workers trade union, only founded during the thirties, was in the meantime, one of the largest in the USA. The management of GM accused the government of exerting pressure on them, to give way to the workers representation. The unions accused the companies of using a policy of "hiring and firing" without taking plight of the workers into consideration. After the war, the price controlling was lifted and the following inflation simply ate up the wages of the employees. It came to a strike which lasted 119 days, also 1947, did not pass without labour conflict.

Why did the situation improve at the beginning of the 50s? Perhaps the excessive communist hunt-down of the McCarthy era had strengthened the position of the more moderate trade union leaders, or maybe, the now clearly booming economy encouraged everyone to pull in the same direction. Yes, there was a lot of hard work being done, and also a lot of hard drinking, there was an almost "gold-digger" atmosphere in the air. The Republicans had a majority in both chambers for the first time in ages, the wealthy people were in the government. It was the era in which the Mc Donald brothers rationalised their restaurant, and went in search of the first franchise takers. Marilyn Monroe married the baseball star Joe DiMaggio, and many who knew her as a pin-up-girl, would have gladly, and at short notice, taken his place.

For the automobile sector, the signs were all great. America had enough crude oil to last for a long time, respective petrol prices and there was a high demand. What was going on in the field of designing during these years, can be seen in the above pictures. Starting from below: Here you can experience the most reasonable Chevrolet model in the design of around 1950. The pontoon car body has become a reality, made completely from steel anyway. Figure 2 shows the Buick design of 1953 with spoked wheel rims as an added extra. The front grill, which was modelled on the shark-mouth,is made to look more aggressive by having "teeth".

In the 1957 model, the "teeth" were more subdued, therefore, the fender made its grand appearance, plenty of chrome, completely misappropriated and laid on thickly. It was a matter of making a distinction between three- or four openings in the front mudguard (the Special or the Super). Performance was abundant. In the meantime, the V8 had replaced the straight-eight and both were fitted with automatic gearboxes. Almost everything worked with electro-hydraulics, in this model the handling was not as soft or phlegmatic as one would think. There was even a radio with an automatic station-seeking mode, not a big deal in a country which would already, in 1954, introduce colour television, 13 years earlier than in Germany.

Figure 1 shows the direction in which the long-standing chief designer Harley Earl wanted to go, obviously he wanted to redesign the car to resemble an airplane, the danger of injury was ignored, safety legislation was still a long way off. Other creations from his teams were small, built-in, useless propellers in the bonnet or the design of the air vents in this manner.The best part of it all, was that almost everyone one tried to copy this design, even Mercedes-Benz, who were otherwise, known for their conservative attitude.With or without fins, the design took giant steps forward and the public rewarded them by buying, alone from Buick, more than 500,000 cars per year. GM had become the apparently, unbeatable number 1.

"Opel is a regional marque" is a statement recently made by the GM-Europe boss Henderson, and this is certainly not helpful in the competition, e.g., against VW. However, this is how it was, even during the immediate post-war period. Perhaps not one of the board members even travelled to Rüsselsheim/Germany. This is the probably the only explanation, of why it took GM so long to come out and stand by their former subsidiary. As far as tax was concerned, they had written Opel off, and wanted, at all costs, to avoid losing even more money. Even though Rüsselsheim lay in the American sector and it was prevented, at least, that the Russians, apart from the Kadett assembly, took nothing else with them. Only at the end of 1948, was Opel taken over again. 11/09               Top of page               Index
2001-2014 Copyright programs, texts, animations, pictures: H. Huppertz - Email
Translator: Don Leslie - Email:

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