In the late 1920s wood was still a major component of car bodies, but in the 1930s pressed metal bodies became increasingly evident. In the United States body builders such as Briggs, Budd, Fisher and Murray were all busy turning out pressed car bodies and this construction method gave rise to the introduction of more stylish body styles. This general improvement in the appearance of automobiles had much to do with the integration of the stylist in the design departments.
Stylists used a variety of features to set models apart. Grilles were a favourite item to change as were bumper bars, and La Salle’s contemporary port-holes later became a Buick hallmark.
In its original form Earl’s La Salle, prototype of the 1930 Cadillacs, was not a truly integrated design, though some of the Hispano-Suiza’s elegance rubbed off. The long, low look marked the first dramatic impact of American styling in Europe. These La Salle themes, with their Hispano overtones, were, after all, only re-imports.
The straight-eight La Salle was a style leader of this period and the 1935 model illustrated had a strong influence on the design of Hudsons and Studebakers of that era as well as most of the General Motors range. Now designed more specifically for the upper middle-class market some of the style features of previous models were considerably scaled down including the expensive bumper bars.
Significant design changes included the turret top body with its compound curves, the pontoon mudguards and the hiding of the radiator behind a grille. Although early grilles kept the tall and narrow shape of the radiator, later models of all cars adopted grilles in a variety of shapes. Other integrating features were the attachment of the headlights to the grille, and the disappearance of the radiator cap to an under-bonnet position.
Wheels had pressed metal disc covers to hide the spokes and the portholes on the bonnet were used on Buicks produced after World War II long after the demise of the La Salle. In fact, the La Salle was a leader in its time, being the first General Motors car to have hydraulic brakes. It also had a coil-spring independent front suspension as used on Cadillacs which was superior to the type used on lesser General Motors models. Other components basically came from the Oldsmobile parts bin although the car was built at the Cadillac division.
In total over 13,000 of this marque were produced with more than half using the less expensive straight-eight motor.