The 1930s weren’t great. It’s true. The Great Depression, which ramped up in 1929, raged on for the whole decade, breaking the world economy and forcing millions of workers to scrape a living. One World War was fading into the past, but another was just around the corner, and diseases — from Polio to Pneumonia — were running rife untreated across the world.
Suffice to say, not the best time to be alive. That is, unless you were a motor car designer. Only some of the cars from that decade are still roadworthy today, but those that are turn heads on every corner. The designers of the time were clearly having a whale of a time, drawing swooping curves and sumptuous silhouettes with reckless abandon. And we’re thankful they did, for it gave us some of these…
1937 Jaguar SS 100 3.5-litre Roadster
If you were wondering where the ‘SS’ came from in this Jag’s name, it is from the previous owners of the car brand, Swallow Sidecars. Funnily enough, when it was fashionable to name your car after an animal in the 30s, SS plumped for Jaguar — and it became so popular that the company took the moniker for itself. Another fun fact: The 100 in the name was the car’s purported top speed. That’s fast for the thirties.
1933 Chrysler CL Imperial Dual-Windshield Phaeton
The Chrysler Imperial was first introduced in 1926, and spent the best part of a decade being refined, re-engineered and redesigned. This is the culmination of all that work — a car with swooping front arches, a silvered grille and not one, but two windscreens. You’ll never have travelled in such style.
1935 Lincoln K Convertible Roadster
Okay, we realise the colour may be a little distracting here, but even under the bright canary yellow, the Lincoln K Convertible was a handsome car. The K-Series was produced by the American carmaker from 1930 to 1940, so you’ll never get a truer 30s four-wheeler. Check out that sweeping tail, small headlamps and the colour-matched wire wheels.
1937 Cord 812 Supercharged Phaeton
It may look like something out of a steampunk graphic novel, but this 1937 car by Cord is the real thing. Not only that, it may be the coolest car on this list. That black/brown colour scheme is inspired, the white-wall tyres are present and correct and those pipes feeding into the engine are among the best automotive design touches we’ve ever clapped our eyes on.
1939 Cadillac Series 75 Convertible Coupe
In 1939, the Series 75 represented Cadillac’s most expensive, luxurious, and exclusive V-8-powered model. Only 27 of these were built — using semi-custom bodies from Fleetwood, which makes us lust after it even more. On a limousine-length chassis, this coupe was built for space and could comfortably fit 4 people and a roadtrip-worth of luggage in the boot.
1934 Packard Twelve Individual Custom Convertible Victoria
This is one of four Custom Convertible Victorias created by Dietrich Inc, and despite being boxy, it has a certain regality to it. From the “false hood” extended back to the windshield, to the cowl that sweeps elegantly back into the doors in a subtle and graceful curve, to the vee’d windshield, it is a masterclass of automotive design — an an exalted example still almost a century later.
1931 Cord L-29 Cabriolet
Trimmed in red and cast in gloss black, this car from American carmaker Cord isn’t just a pretty face. In fact, it was the first major American production car with front-wheel drive. Famously low in height, the interiors boasted flat floors and comfortable, spacious seating. And we can’t get enough of a classic white-walled tyre.
Skip forwards a couple of decades, and see what happened when we took a 1952 Jaguar to the streets of London…