Cars and movies are among the most influential technologies of the twentieth century. Born in the same era, Hollywood and Detroit developed on parallel paths and rapidly achieved substantial economic and cultural power. Together, they revolutionized leisure time and came to symbolize glamour and mechanized utility to the American public. Early Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille famously remarked that the American “love of motion and speed” was embodied in the two industries. By the end of the 1920s, the Big Three in Detroit had emerged to dominate American car consumption while moviemaking came to be concentrated into five major studios, all in the Los Angeles area. On camera, cars indicate the wealth and social rank of the characters while simultaneously helping to establish a time and place. Behind the scenes, they serve as moving camera platforms and support vehicles. Off the set, they become an integral part of the glamorous celebrity lifestyle.
The Automobile Driving Museum is proud to present this “Cars of Hollywood” exhibit from July 1st, 2015 until December 31st, 2015. The exhibit will feature Dutch Darrin designed cars for the stars of Hollywood.
Dutch Darrin and the Cars of Hollywood
When you think of the classic cars owned by people such as Errol Flynn and Clark Gable, then you are probably imagining the types of cars designed by Howard Darrin. These cars are synonymous with the glory days of Hollywood, and film stars and wealthy investors desired these cars. Some of Darrin’s cars are at the very top level of designer vehicles, and Darrin is a brand that many fans of classic cars dream of buying.
Who is Howard Darrin?
Born in New Jersey, and known as ‘Dutch’, Darrin first came to the attention of car lovers during the 1920s. He worked with a number of manufacturers and car producers, but his most famous collaborations were with the Packard convertible series in the 1930s, and with the Kaiser-Frazer car makers, designing the 1951 Kaiser Manhattan. Many of the cars from these lines were used by film stars.
Darrin Design Features
Darrin included many features in his cars which make them instantly recognisable, including the famous ‘Darrin Dip’, and the famous ‘arrowhead’ design, where the front of the car forms a narrow point, and which is a feature of many classic cars designed by Darrin. The running boards, formerly a large structure at the base of the door, were now minimised and even turned into small step-plates. The folding top of the vehicle is also a Darrin design which was later copied by other car manufacturers.
The Darrin Dip
One of the design features which made the Darrin Packard and Kaiser Designs so popular was the ‘Darrin Dip’. This is a small curve in the shape of the car doors, so that the doors dip down towards the rear. This feature not only makes the car look sleeker and more stylish, it also adds comfort, and in the past allowed drivers to place one elbow on the car door.
Clark Gable and the Convertible
One of the best known drivers of the Darrin-designed Packard Convertible was the film star Clark Gable. This was a 1930s model which used the power of the traditional Packard car, and is estimated to have cost Gable between $4,000 and $5,200, which was a great deal of money for a car at that period. Darrin later identified a flood-damaged car as this vehicle, as it was the only one that he had designed to stretch the hood to less than half an inch of the door.
A notorious car-lover, it is no surprise that the actress demanded a Packard convertible designed by Darrin. She was even photographed driving this car for celebrity magazines of the time, and the convertible was one of her favourite cars.
Another famous lover of the Darrin Packard was Errol Flynn. His 1941 Packard Convertible Clipper was personally designed by Dutch Darrin, meaning that it is a unique item. It was built in a peach colour, and was the only Clipper available which was built under the direction of Dutch Darrin. Car fans regularly attempt to identify this car, although its current whereabouts are not known.