Alfa Romeo 8C 2.9 Bugatti 57 Duesenberg J-SJ Lagonda V12 Mercedes 500-540K

Cars of the classic '30s

If you look at the history of the car industry/culture in the 20th century, the 30’s come out clearly as the period with the biggest concentration of luxury high-performance cars.
This trend seems to be coming back with the recent proliferation of very luxurious and strong cars endowed with multi-fractional engines. The new Rolls Royce and Bentley or the new Maybach (a noble pre-war brand reintroduced by Mercedes), with their proud 12-cylinder engines, are good examples of it. What to say? It has all been here before. We have decided to tell the story of the five most interesting and refined cars of the golden age. Bon voyage!

Did you know...

If you are a car lover, surely you have seen in a specialized magazine at least once in your life a list of most beautiful or dream cars of all times. Maybe you thought of making your own chart that would come up from a discussion with your friends. Have you ever noticed that there are always almost the same cars appearing in these “hit-parades”? It is inevitable that there will be the dream car par excellence Ferrari, preferably its latest model, and then the “nice” cars such as the classic VW Beatle and the good old “cinquecento”, but the pre-war cars are almost always missing. You may say: “Who cares?”

Well, it seems that many people, including car lovers, unconsciously tend to think that all cars constructed before World War II are just crackling wrecks, and only good to be stuck in dusty barns and museums. But isn’t it just that we know too little about these cars to be able to judge them?
I once took part in the conference on the use of light alloys in car construction through history. I was then positively surprised by the speech of a highly esteemed car industry engineer. He claimed that almost all significant inventions in this field were made before the WWII. I am sure he was right. Shall I give you an example?

The formula one Mercedes W125 from 1937 used to exceed 350 km/h on fastest routes and had a supercharged engine of 600 Hp. There wasn’t any car with such capacity in formula one until the introduction of turbo engines in the 80’s.
The special versions of formula one Mercedes and their rivals from Auto Union, tweaked to beat the records, would go faster then 400 km/h. It surely wasn’t the technology of the engine but that of the chassis and brakes that constituted the main problem of these cars...

The first real “Scuderia Ferrari” was made of Alfa Romeo models that were among the best racing and passenger sports cars of the pre-war era. They were equipped by engines with over-head valves and double camshaft.

Passenger cars produced by the American Duesenberg in the 30’s already had engines with four valves per cylinder and a double over-head camshaft. In their supercharged version, the engines’ performance exceeded 300 Hp and allowed these cars to break the 200 km/h speed limit. Their dashboard already had a “check-panel” with warning lights that would switch on automatically once the pre-programmed maintenance interval was reached. Like many other veteran cars, they had automatically lubricated chassis.

By the beginning of the century electric cars became reality. In 1908 Detroit Electric had a battery-powered vehicle in their production and about 14.000 cars were produced until 1919. Henry Ford owned three of them.

There were about 12 companies producing 12 cylinder cars in the 30’s. Among them, Cadillac was offering 8, 12 and 16 cylinder engines. The quality of these cars was not inferior to that of Rolls Royce models.

If you knew all this already, then this is the right site for you. And if you didn’t, we may have succeeded in awaking your interest in this subject. Anyway, enjoy the surfing!



M.R.

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