My Car Quest

May 23, 2024

A “Primitif” Love For “Streamline Moderne”

by Wallace Wyss –

I can’t say when it was when I fell in love with “streamline moderne.” Maybe it was when my parents bought an Electrolux vacuum cleaner in the early ‘50s and I enjoyed its streamline styling and polished metal trim. Maybe it was when I saw one of the Raymond Loewy-designed streamlined locomotives (yes, I go back to the age of steam…).

S1 Locomotive by Raymond Loewy

The S1 Locomotive, designed for Pennsylvania Railroads by Raymond Loewy, the French-American designer who is one of the pioneers of Streamline – at the New York World’s Fair, 1939-1940 — Photo from William Burket collection

Anyhow, once I saw my first prewar art deco streamline moderne car, I was hooked. But it took me a few years of painting portraits of cars (since 2009) before I first painted a prewar car of the sweeping curves early-aero era that seemed to reach its peak in 1939 just before the war.

Bugatti 57SC

My all time favorite is the Shah’s Bugatti 57SC

Up to 2016 I had only done postwar cars, Ferraris for the most part, but then, after seeing a dual-spatted Delahaye by Figoni et Falaschi at Pebble Beach, I decided to do some paintings of prewar cars, coachbuilt ones by the great coachbuilders like Figoni et Falaschi, Saoutchik and the like.

Of all the brands, I say Bugatti is the marque that intrigues me most, more because of the total approach of the Bugatti family toward design (including furniture, fine art, etc.) I’ve even taken to reading books about industrial design, and taking note of things like Charles Eames chairs and kitchen accessories.

Delahaye 135M

Delahaye 135M Figoni et Falaschi, the ultimate way to tour France.

Right now, for my French coachwork series, I prefer to set the cars in a background that reminds me of places I’ve toured in France—Paris, the Cote d’Azur and the
Loire Valley. I can’t imagine anything better than touring any of those locales in a prewar open car with streamline moderne coachwork.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR/ARTIST: Wallace Wyss will be displaying art outside the Mullin Museum Feb. 22nd. For a list of streamline moderne cars depicted on 20” x 30” canvas prints, write him at


Bugatti Royale

Only the fender line on this Bugatti Royale is Streamline Moderne.

Bugatti Atlantique

The Bugatti Atlantique is another favorite

Talbot Lago T150C

1935 Talbot Lago T150C SS teardrop by Figoni et Falaschi

All painting by Wallace Wyss.

A “Primitif” Love For “Streamline Moderne”
Article Name
A “Primitif” Love For “Streamline Moderne”
For my French coachwork series of streamline moderne, I prefer to set the cars in a background that reminds me of places I’ve toured in France—Paris, the Cote d’Azur and the Loire Valley.


  1. imwithstoopid says

    Oh, so true. I too remember those living, breathing behemoths of the rails. but I never got to see the Loewy and Dreyfus Renditions due to our proximity to the incoming lines. But I still, remember catching smoke and steam in my face on the 12th street (Roosevelt Rd.) overpass as the steamers went by.
    But one-day much later I saw my first Thirties Tear-Drop car, I had no idea that anything like that ever existed. It was a Delahaye and was simply unreal, like a cartoon from somebodies imagine since so many cartoons of the 30s and 40s had their depictions.
    I also love Art Deco and Wrights ideas of the family home. Nothing like the lobbies of a Deco office building.
    The cars were so true to the design philosophy of form follows function, and the buildings statement was, the lobbies should be inviting, pleasing to the eye and make a statement.
    These cars make a statement with a capitol S.
    Even though I never had the the pleasure of seeing those places except in pictures, you are right, that’s where they belong.

  2. wallace wyss says

    I grew up in Detroit and used to visit Greenield Village, Henry Ford’s sort of homage to the villages of America but don’t recall seeing anything there that was at all aero except for the Auburn Speedster. Even at the Village’s Old Car festival I wasn’t aware of them–it wasn’t until coming to California that I saw real pre-war streamline moderne cars. And now that hot rodders have discovered the cars (some 70 years later) and a few rods are being made (mostly by Rick Dore for his patron musician James Hetfield) I feel like I am fortunate to be able to witness the beginning of the rediscovery and appreciation of Streamline Moderne.

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