the view through the windshield
1938-40 Graham Sharknose

The Graham brothers first business venture was in the manufacture of glass bottles. Later, the brothers began building kits to convert Ford Model Ts into trucks. That led to them to producing their own trucks, using engines from various manufacturers. The brothers decided to enter the passenger automobile business and, in 1927, purchased the Paige-Detroit Motor Company, makers of Paige and Jewett automobiles, for $4 million.

Like many automakers, Graham-Paige struggled during the Great Depression. It was decided that a substantial and distinctive restyle would increase sales of the faltering brand.

Murray Corporation was a major body supplier to Lincoln, Ford, Reo, Hupmobile, Hudson and, of course, Graham-Paige. Amos Northup of Murray was charged with designing a new Graham model for 1938. He was a well-known and respected designer with stints at Pierce Arrow, Wills St. Claire and Willys. Northup had helped style the Model A Ford as well. But his untimely death left the new Graham project partly-completed; the final touches were executed by body engineer William Nealey.

car blog

Sharknose on display at the LeMay Collection
The result was the radically restyled Model 97, which the company dubbed 'Spirit of Motion'. The new car looked like it was going 60 mph when standing still.

The fenders, wheel openings and grille all appeared to be moving forward.

The 1938 Graham was praised in the American press and by designers. It also won the prestigious Salons D'Elegance in Paris, Lyons, Bordeaux and Marseilles.

The public dubbed it the Sharknose and stayed away in droves. Part of the problem may have been the limited bodystyles available: a four-door sedan, supplemented by the addition of a stylish two-door club coupe in 1939.

The recession of 1938 didn't help either, nor did Graham-Paige's shaky finances. But the styling has been cited as the major reason for the Sharknose's flop in the marketplace.

The Sharknose was sold in the 1938, 1939 and part of the 1940 model year; less than 8,800 were produced in total.

By comparison, there were over 4,100 Packard Sixes sold in 1938 alone. Over 81,000 Oldsmobiles were produced in '38. In 1939, the debut year for Mercury, over 75,000 examples were made.

At least two 'Spirit of Motion' convertibles were created by European coachbuilders. One, produced by a Belgian shop, Vesters & Neirinck, has been modeled in 1:43 scale by Ixo Models.

A full-size formal Sharknose town car with an open chauffeur's compartment was crafted by a New York coachbuilder.

Graham-Paige suspended manufacturing of automobiles in September of 1940, only to reopen its plant for military production for World War II. Grahams were not produced after the war.

The low production explains why I never saw a Graham Sharknose in person when growing up.

I always liked the look of these vehicles, have admired examples at car shows and am delighted to have two nicely-detailed little 1:43 scale diecast Sharknose convertibles in my model car collection - a red one by Ixo and a blue one from Special C made using the Ixo tooling. (originally posted 4/8/10)

automobile blog

Remember When: 1938
auto blogIn 1938, Orson Wells' Halloween eve radio broadcast of War of the Worlds terrified the nation when listeners thought that Martians had really attacked the Earth.

A 500-ton meteorite struck the earth in an empty field near Chicora, Pennsylvania.

Hitler absorbed Austria into his Nazi empire. Adolf Hitler was named Time magazine's Man of the Year.

In 1938, several automakers offered steering column gear shift controls which effectively increased front seat room. Buick offered the first electric turn signals. Pierce Arrow went out of business. Oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia.

Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan flew from New York and landed in Ireland instead of Los Angeles. Howard Hughes circled the globe in under four days, setting a new record.

Fads included bingo, chain letters, saddle shoes and zoot suits. Several new products were introduced, including Nescafe instant coffee, nylon-bristled toothbrushes and Fiberglas. Teflon was invented in 1938. Superman debuted in Action Comics #1.

The minimum hourly wage was raised to 25¢, which was the average price of a movie ticket in 1938. A gallon of gas costs 10¢ and tuition at Harvard was $420 for a full year.

The British steam locomotive, Mallard, set the world speed record for steam by reaching 126 mph.

Posing with the Mallard in York, England - June 1991

New songs included Artie Shaw's 'Begin the Beguine', Ella Fitzgerald's 'A-Tisket, A-Tasket', 'Thanks For The Memory' by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross as well as Kate Smith's iconic 'God Bless America'. Several significant movies made their debut in 1938: 'Love Finds Andy Hardy', 'Boys Town' and 'Bringing Up Baby'.

Deaths included lawyer Clarence Darrow, tire magnate Harvey Firestone and novelist Thomas Wolfe. People born in 1938 included daredevil Evil Knievel, media magnate Ted Turner, actors Jon Voight and Christopher Lloyd, actress Diana Rigg, Nike founder Phil Knight and singers Connie Francis, Jack Jones, Ben E. King and Kenny Rogers.

Most of the world cheered when Germany's Max Schmeling was defeated by a knock out in the first round by the great Joe Louis for the heavyweight championship. Seabiscuit beat War Admiral in the Horse Race of the Century. The New York Yankees won the '38 World Series, defeating the Chicago Cubs 4-0.

More AutoSketch car drawings can be found here.

copyright 2010-21 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved


The facts presented on this website are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.

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If I have slandered any brands of automobiles, either expressly or inadvertently, they're most likely crap cars and deserve it. Automobile manufacturers should be aware that they always have the option of giving me free cars to try and change my mind.

If I have slandered any people or corporations, either expressly or inadvertently, they should buy me strong drinks (and an expensive meal) and try to prove to me that they're not the jerks I've portrayed them to be. If you're buying, I'm willing to listen.

Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.