1938 Graham: the sharknose automobile

I'm at a loss to explain why every car made doesn't look exactly like this.



  1. The grill work isn’t ‘angry’ enough. More vagina like than penis like. With a “Boat Nose”

    Also, too many parts to mass produce and form fit into the body.

  2. Well, because 24 MPG may have been good back then, but it wouldn’t fly today, and one reason the fuel economy is so low, I’m sure, is because of its design. That combined with the cost of all the extra metal that you’d need for the boat nose makes cars like this a bad investment, economically speaking.

  3. 90 hp naturally aspirated and 116 supercharged? They weren’t trying too hard there.

  4. That front end must have been terrible in any kind of collision, pedestrian or vehicular

  5. Don’t snark at that MPG. Compare that 1938 to modern standards:
    I laughed when I saw a prototype car this weekend (subcompact) that was screaming estimated 40MPG like that was a new discovery. I remember diesel rabbits in the 70s and 80s getting 45MPG. Think of the progress in fuel efficiency if we engineered like we meant it.

    The air pollution spewing out the back of that 38 is probably a different story…

    1. Econoboxes of the ’70s and ’80s could achieve such high mileage because they were very light, fragile, underpowered, and very spartan by today’s standards. Safety regulations have made cars heavier, and lots of options are now standard. (E.g.: Nearly every new car has power windows and power steering.) Also, I think the EPA at some point changed the way they measure MPG, to make the rating more realistic, IIRC.

      A ’38 Graham was the basis for George Barris’ recent “kustom” car: the Shark A.T.T.A.K.

  6. VW TDIs routinely get 45 mpg now, but comparing diesel to gas isn’t fair, since the energy density of diesel is higher.

    This car was getting 24 mpg in 1938! And that’s a lot of car! Just look at it! The mileage is really impressive, and more evidence of lame-ass US car companies and government expectations.

    1. Exactly. I was going to write that I could fight crime in a car like that, but first I’d have to change the color. I’m not wearing a baby blue costume!

  7. You said it, Cory. That is one gorgeous hunk of iron. Use that as your getaway car the next time you knock over a bank, and the coppers definitely won’t take you alive!

  8. “I’m at a loss to explain why every car made doesn’t look exactly like this.” – because they (specifically the sharknose body style) didn’t sell that well

    1. (Roger) Price’s First Law: “If everybody doesn’t want it, nobody gets it.”

  9. Since Paul Newman died, I think Lasseter needs to recast Doc Hudson as one of these babies in “Cars 2,” voiced by, say, Harrison Ford.

    P.S. to Lancewr: It’s “disputandUm,” not ”-dEm.” Simple passive periphrastic. :-)

  10. I’m at a loss to explain why every car made doesn’t look exactly like this.

    Pedestrian safety legislation?

    Europe (for example) has laws that car bonnets have to be be shaped so that drunken idiots bouncing off your bonnet aren’t a) ground under, or b) bounced over the top of, the vehicle. Hence the characteristic Eurobox car shape…

    (BWChicago @5 beat me to that by miles though. Ok, how about:)

    Boat prow noses channel more air under the car and run the risk of creating a ground effect. That’s great for speedboats; but less ideal for motor cars, which have a use for front wheel traction.

  11. Oh, and as to the “x car in 19yy got Z miles per gallon,” there are myriad reasons for it, but mainly it’s due to the increased safety, standard luxury features, and power that have been added since 19yy. For example, the 1990 Geo Metro XFi managed a 59mpg highway rating (at the time – under new EPA method, 51mpg) without hybrid features or anything particularly advanced, but was flimsy, dangerous, ill handling, noisy, slow, and horrid to drive. There’s no way it would pass the current crash test standards without major re-engineering using massive amounts of expensive composites.

    The fact that gas mileage hasn’t gotten significantly worse while the vehicles themselves have improved so much is amazing. We just need to hold off on the increasing size and power for a while and work on decreasing weight through advance materials and increasing efficiency.

  12. Nice to see that with all of the differences between 1938 homo sapiens and today, there was still an appreciation back then for “imposing bigness”.

    It is a shame that commerce pushed all of the non-conformity to the side in the auto industry, but the car world’s loss was the cracker industries gain. With all of their attention focused on baked goods, Graham was able to dominate the field in the perforated cookie market.

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