Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Pontiac Club de Mer
The Pontiac Club de Mer was a purpose-built, concept car that was unveiled at the General Motors Motorama in 1956 to celebrate GM's commitment to futuristic design. The brainchild of GM designer Paul Gillian, the de Mer was a two door sport roadster that incorporated innovative breakthrough styling like a sleek, low-profile body encasing a large powerplant, a design trend used widely in LSR (land speed record) trials at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah during the 1950s. One Club de Mer prototype was constructed and unveiled, along with another ¼-scale model, in Miami, Florida. As per GM's "kill order", it was scrapped in 1958. Only the 1/4-scale model exists today, owned by noted car collector Ron Pratt who purchased it at the 2007 Barrett Jackson Classic Car Auction for $75,000
The design of the de Mer drew its visual impetus from contemporary aircraft construction of its day, employing a stainless steel monocoque, individual wind screens similar to those on the 1955 Lincoln Futura (later TV's Batmobile), aerodynamically fashioned facia that flowed down from the hood skin to cover most of the grill, concealed headlights, and a single rear-deck dorsal fin. Also featured were twin "silver-streaks" that flowed into low-profile hood scoops, a carry-over from Pontiac's Bonneville Special two years prior. The overall styling of the body was a smooth, non-undulating profile, similar to an American supersonic jet fighter, with virtually no protrusions or recesses of any kind save for the out-vents on the leading edge of both doors, and the fin. The vehicle had no bumpers, a common feature on most concepts, and the door handles were quite small. On a human scale, its most alarming feature was that it had a very low profile at just under 39 inches.
The interior styling in the de mer had a barebones functionality to it, more in keeping with its speed trial “airs” than the flashier production vehicles available in showrooms at the time. Instruments were low key, with triangularly configured gauges mounted well behind a three spoke, GT-style steering wheel, around the steering column. The speedometer was positioned on top, and a smaller gauge on either side, each enclosed in its own pod. The interior was finished in red, while passengers gained entry through conventional doors.
Under the hood lay Pontiac’s brand new wonder engine, the 287 OHV V-8 which was unveiled the year prior. Called the Strato Streak, it was GM's most powerful engine by 1955 and ushered in Pontiac’s high-performance image with the Bonneville, Grand Prix and GTO. This high-output power plant was modified with a high-lift cam and fitted with two four-barrel carburetors to coax power up to a mighty 300 bhp. The rear wheels were driven by a rear mounted transaxle, used later in Pontiac's new compact, the 1961 Tempest, on a DiDion Type rigid rear axle with independent suspension.
"Concept" was not a term used in the 1950s but instead "experimental car".
The individual bubble windscreens were an innovation carried over to the 1956 and 57 Corvette racing car.
The model kit maker Revell made a 1/25 scale Club de Mer that actually came with 1950s-clad driver and passenger.
Posted by Palmer at 1:19 AM