By on March 6, 2010

When GM’s new 1973 cars, especially the all-new  “mid-sized” cars were introduced, my friend Paul Brown, an artist and fellow Bill Mitchell aficionado and I trotted down to Iowa City’s various dealers to experience them in the flesh. We found them to be somewhat over the top, and struggled to understand what Bill and his associates were thinking, or what someone had put in the Advanced Styling studio water coolers. Inspired by the the GM psychedelia, we loaded up on brochures, and went home and got out scissors and paste, and decided that we could “improve” on their imaginings. I wrote about it here before, but after writing yesterday’s CC on the Collonade Malibu, I realized that I still had some of our work (I tend to keep things). I’ve been a little shy about sharing them, but what the hell; it was a long time ago.

(click through twice to get full size view)

I’m more amazed than embarrassed that these exist, given how many times I moved in my early years. Some of them are worse for wear, and one of them was actually used as an envelope by PB to mail me something. I should point out that I have to give him the lion’s share of the creative credit for these. I know we worked on them together, but his artistic skills were well beyond mine. Or am I saying this in self-defense?

The tools (and results) may have been crude, but they still exist! How many digital photo-shops will folks be pulling up thirty seven years later?

Here’s proof that we didn’t just obsess on GM’s big barges: A 1974 Dodge Monaco.

I know that I didn’t have anything to do with this Gremlin that PB sent me, but I’m quite fond of that boat tail.

All right you car spotters: can you identify the two cars that were co-joined in this perspective-busting exercise?

I vividly remember being particularly inspired by Pontiac’s extravagant Grand Am. And I know we did a number of different takes on it.  This is not my favorite, but it’s the only one still existent. Art: either one gets it, or one doesn’t. The quality of its expression may vary, but for some, its a way to try to make sense of the craziness of the world around us. And in 1973, US cars were pretty bizarre. How else should we have tried to understand what the designers were trying to tell us with their curious handiwork?

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23 Comments on “1973 GM Cars Re-Imagined: Vintage “Photo-Chops” Discovered...”


  • avatar
    Juniper

    You have a thing for pointy butts?

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    Amazing work given the crude tools of the time. Isn’t that last one a Luxury LeMans? The LL was probably my favorite Colonnade although I remember liking the Cutlass as a kid. Especially the ones with rally wheels.

  • avatar
    Monty

    This is crazy! I did the exact same thing, at about the same time. Except my handiwork was always making convertibles and wagons for nameplates that didn’t offer those particular body styles.

    I can vividly remember making a Maverick convertible, using a Cougar droptop for some of the bits and a Maverick wagon utilizing a Gran Torino as the donor of parts. A Gremlin ragtop proved impossible, if I recall.

    I’m glad to know that I wasn’t the only one.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    I like the Omega and the 98 Regency (although it’s a bit “Super-fly” for me to be seen in.) Good job on most of them, I’ve seen photo”chops” that looked at lot more slapped together using software that was plenty more expensive than your scissors and glue.

  • avatar
    Flipper

    co-joined in perspective = 1972 Pontiac Catalina + 73 Gran Torino 2Dr

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Love he Lemans back end!

    Paul, what was the reason for the ‘Colonade’ label?

    • 0 avatar

      GM called them that. I think it referred to the roof pillar design — the broad, angled B-pillars. GM was moving away from pillarless hardtops, because there were federal rollover crash standards on the table (never actually enacted, to my understanding) that threatened to make hardtops and convertibles illegal. GM was looking for a new design idiom, and hoped that would be it.

  • avatar

    The ‘boattail’ Gremlin looks an awful lot like an Avanti.

  • avatar
    tsofting

    The “Siamese Twin” is composed from a full-size Ford, those chrome/laser stripes are a dead giveaway, and a full-size GM, let’s say Chevy Caprice from the same year, where the airy greenhouse is the giveaway!

    By the way, I used to do the same thing; “improving” designs, my specialty was making fastbacks from staid sedans!

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I think a lot of us did this kind of thing. I would rather draw (or trace) them by hand as compared to chopping up photos, but it was the same idea. And like most other kids of the day, I built dozens of 1/24th scale models, some of which I kitbashed, to borrow a model railroading term.

    NIce work, and a real gem you’ve saved. I wish I had my kid art, but it’s long gone.

  • avatar
    OMG_Shoes

    OK, yeah, but can your beer do this?

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    Funny, after I read this I turned on the TV to find some show on Spike (I think) fixing up and ratting old Colonnades. Some timing.

  • avatar
    res

    Very “Zany Afternoon-ish.”

  • avatar
    1600 MKII

    It’s funny – in the 50s I remember finding just using a standard pencil eraser I could eliminate the bits I wanted to change…my first job was a 57 Corvette Wagon (except at the time I called it a shooting brake – a hopeless Anglophile at the time). I tried making a Rolls Powered and outfitted Range Rover, but could never arrange a good shot that included the motor OR the interior…converts were always fun and a snap and glue based mashups with additions only worked of course when the ratios matched…great memories.

  • avatar
    chrisgreencar

    These are all so great. When is the gallery show?

    The top/bottom chop job seems to be a Ford Gran Torino and a Pontiac Catalina or Bonneville.

    Very inspiring pieces!

  • avatar
    shaker

    That’s great stuff.
    I used to do the same thing with the old AMT plastic models in the day – the abominations that I created were probably rendered beautiful (or at least feasible) by the intoxicating fumes of the Testor airplane glue.

  • avatar
    troonbop

    “intoxicating fumes of the Testor airplane glue.”

    A tad depressing to hear that, Shaker. My work area was covered with half-completed projects, each more wonderful than the last and none ever finished. For years I’ve been telling myself it was because I was just so damn creative and yet, sadly, there is a good chance I was just sitting there stoned. Cut, glue, paint. Cut, glue, paint.
    Still, after model making I entered my teenage rebel phase so it was great preparation.

  • avatar
    SilverCoupe

    I did these too. Cutting out photos from my dad’s old Fortune Magazines was probably the first evidence of my obsession with cars. Mostly, I like the late ’50’s Cadillacs.

    I did the model thing too – I made what I think was a pretty snazzy Corvette panel wagon back in 1969, and even more amazingly, I still have it!

    When I went off to college in ’75, I tossed most of my old models, but I kept the best five, including a ’69 GTX, a ’70 Toronado (a duplicate of the car we owned – a “silver coupe,” of course), a NASCAR ’74 Matador, a ’74 Chevy Monza (no accounting for taste, I guess), and the aforementioned Corvette.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    My sister was majorly pissed at me when I wrecked her 71 Cutlass and my dad bought her a 73 to replace it (My dad would never buy a used car, ever). Her color choice just made an already ugly car even uglier, it was some sort of bronze, with a brown vinyl top. My mom went out and bought a sky blue 73 Cutlass, while I was given her red 72. I liked the car, but it had constant electrical problems. I finally traded it in on my 74 Roadrunner, a car that is still running around Las Vegas today, fully restored, with a 487″ motor in it. I loved that car, but I wanted a truck, so off it went.

    I have no idea what kind of drugs the GM designers, and their bosses were on when they designed and approved these cars. I think of these cars as the first crack in GM’s corporate mind. Why people bought them? I have no idea, but people buy hideous cars like the Ford Focus all the time.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Did you so something with the Monaco? It’s about the right width.

  • avatar
    KarDanCreations

    I’ve been working on a series of highly edited photo images transforming popular vehicles into models and variations that manufacturers perhaps should have made. Who else is doing similar to this nowadays with photoshop creating altered versions of production vehicles? I’m interested in seeing and comparing each other’s designs. Does anyone know of an appropriate website to do this?

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