This elegant illustration of a 1929 LaSalle Convertible Coupe is curious for several reasons. Firstly, this American automobile appears in a British publication: the 1929 Penrose’s Annual. Subtitled “The Process Year Book and Review of the Graphic Arts”, these annuals discussed the latest developments in the “process of illustration”, and proudly displayed the finest examples, very often in colour.
The second curiosity is that it is printed in the annual on ordinary newsprint in four colours, to show the technical possibilities of using colour images in newspapers – decades before this would be a common occurrence.
The final curiosity is that the style of the illustration is very different from contemporary press advertisements for LaSalle, which were highly flamboyant and glossy, with plenty of white space around the cars.
There is a possible clue in the form of a single example on the internet of a 1929 LaSalle “mailer part color folder” for the American market. The front-page colour illustration is much simpler than those in advertisements, and possibly by the same unknown artist who created our image. Indeed, the lady leaning over the wall here has the same slender elegance as the ladies in the folder.
LaSalle was a brand created in 1927 by General Motors as a less expensive companion marque for Cadillac, to fill a perceived pricing gap between Buick and Cadillac. As with Cadillac, the brand name was based on that of a French explorer – in this case, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle.
The 1927 LaSalle is considered by many to be the first example of modern American automotive styling. It was designed by Harley Earl, who eventually became the head of styling and design for the whole of General Motors. He wanted the LaSalle to be an elegant, agile and stylish automobile – not just a junior Cadillac. For example, an open LaSalle was available in bright two- or even three-tone colour-schemes, when most American cars were still in black or navy blue. And we can just see the “golf-bag door” in the quarter panel.
La Salle cars of the 1927-1933 period were fitted with Cadillac’s “Ninety Degree V-8” – so they were rapid machines. On June 20, 1927, a LaSalle driven by Willard Rader and Gus Bell at the Milford Proving Grounds averaged 95.2 mph (153.2 km/h) over 952 miles (1,532 km). The average speed at that year’s Indianapolis 500 was 97.5 mph (156.9 km/h).
The LaSalle consistently outsold the Cadillac, but the marque did not survive World War 2; the last LaSalles were produced in 1940.