Lancia Loraymo And The Loewy Logic of Industrial Design
By Brandes Elitch
Fetherston Publishing, 2016
Hardbound, 11.5 by 9 inches, 128 pages
$59.95 USD plus shipping Order from www.loewylancia.com
Review by Pete Vack
Well, it finally arrived. I had asked the author, Brandes Elitch, if he would send me a finished copy of his book, not a spiral bound proof copy; the hands on, touchy-feely experience of the final hardbound product is important.
And indeed it was. Elitch’s long-awaited book on Raymond Loewy and the Loraymo came in a very elegant but simple white cardboard box. When that was opened, the cover stared at me and said, ‘Finally, here I am’; Lancia Loraymo And The Loewy Logic of Industrial Design with an artistically grainy color shot of the fabled and often misunderstood Loraymo beneath the title. Nice; impressive.
It had been a long road.
About 20 years ago Steve Snyder, Lancia nut and former shop owner, told his friend Elitch about rescuing the long lost Loraymo in California. Many years later, somewhere in 2014, Elitch thought the subject would be good for a short book, and knew that Steve still had the photos of the as found Loraymo and much more. There had already been several stories in the automotive press in the mid-1990s about the restoration of the Loraymo, but the full story had never been told.
Elitch, (who has been writing for VeloceToday since 2007) and I thought it would make a good subject for a VeloceToday Select book, as it was short and focused with a relatively small audience. And an Italian car designed by a French–American stylist was right up our alley. But the story grew as Steve came forth with new photos and Elitch made contact with Raymond Loewy’s son in law, David Hagerman, who got onboard and would eventually contribute a great deal more about both his father-in-law and the Loraymo (and write a superb Introduction). With sections on design, Loewy, Lancia and the Loraymo, Elitch’s book was getting too big for our signature series.
At the same time, along came another publisher who essentially offered to do the layout in a very artistic manner worthy of Raymond Loewy himself, and use the new print-on-demand color service offered by Amazon. The publisher offered to do it for free as they needed the experience and publicity. This, we thought, would work out very well. Many meetings, schedules, conferences and contracts later, by mid-2015 we thought we were on the verge of creating a great new book about Loewy and the Loraymo.
Then, nothing. The publisher, who will remain nameless, simply stopped communicating with us, contract or not. None of us had any idea of why this occurred. Then Elitch remembered another friend of his, David Fetherston, who was also a publishing but concentrated on hot rod books. Since we had not heard from our errant publisher, we thought it time to move on and get Fetherston to finish the effort, which he did and in fine style.
The hardbound, 11 ¼ by 9 inch, 128 page book is well laid out on heavy gloss paper, and thank goodness for the large and clear font…easy on old eyes even though it adds to the page (and cost) count. Fetherston and company also did great work improving the quality of many of the photos taken of the car when owned by Dave Rives. They were copies of photos of photos (found and taken by Steve Snyder) and yet reproduced nicely. We should note here that many other images of the Loraymo today were taken by our own Hugues Vanhoolandt and Jonathan Sharp and add greatly to the book.
While under Fetherston’s care, much material was added, mostly much-needed information and photos of and associated with Raymond Loewy, courtesy of David Hagerman. Delving into the designer’s past, Elitch found a comment from the 1940s which sums up the essence of Raymond Loewy: “…Loewy is the only American designer who can cross the country in a car, train or plane of his own design,” which says a lot about the range of Loewy’s talents and influences. Loewy was much admired and much-criticized, but he was on the forefront of industrial design at a time when America was just beginning to mass produce virtually everything. He was an artist, a manager, a creator, an ambitious self-promoter but extremely influential.
From the beginning, Elitch wanted this book to be not only about the Loraymo, but about automotive and industrial design. A long time student of both European and American automobile styling (and the stylists), Elitch wanted to present both Loewy and the Loraymo in a wider context, for only by doing so can one both understand and appreciate both Loewy and his very special Lancia. While this was achieved, the elements are varied and don’t easily fall into a nice logical order. Elitch broke the topics up thusly:
II Loewy and the Creative Process
III Loewy’s Mission
IV The Lancia Connection
V The Lancia Loraymo
VI The Disappearance
VII The Avanti
VIII Loewy and the Loraymo Legacy
In the first several chapters, Elitch addresses the difference between art and industrial design, what makes a successful automobile design, Loewy’s contributions to the field of industrial design, and Loewy’s personal history. He adds a section on the impact of GM on Automobile design and the influence of Alfred Sloan and Harley Earl; seemingly off topic but contributes to our understanding of the times in which Loewy lived.
So we take a rather winding but pleasurable road to get to the Loraymo story itself and in the process learn a lot about American design, industrial design and the many aspects of Loewy’s career and personality. It all needs to be there, but the flow could have been improved.
Following the sections on automotive design, Elitch takes a look at the history of Lancia and in particular, the Flaminia. He presents a section about special bodied Flaminias of the same era, including the Nardi specials and Zagatos. These cars were the contemporaries of the Loraymo and serve to illustrate what others created on the same platform.
Then, with help from Steve Snyder and Armand Giglio, Elitch does even more research and puts together a remarkable saga of the Loraymo. In one of the many new anecdotes about the car, Snyder recounts that when the Loraymo was in the possession of one David Rives, sometime in the early 1970s (precise date unknown), Rives met Loewy on the road while driving the Loraymo, which was now red. Loewy stopped, a conversation ensued, and Dave’s friend snapped a photo of Rives and Loewy in front of the Loraymo alongside the road. Yet, Steve Snyder said that Rives told him that Loewy did not seem all that interested in the car or its history since Loewy had long since gotten rid of it. Apparently the Loraymo for Loewy was yesterday and Loewy was very much about tomorrow. However, the photos of the car as taken by Rives, and later as discovered by an Alfa enthusiast Marco Mercado (who really deserves credit for saving the car) and Snyder in early 1987, really help tell the story of the car’s fate.
Part of the story involves the Lancia make itself and the American Lancia Club, which with the efforts of Snyder and Armand Giglio, handed the newly rediscovered Loraymo over to the Lancia Museum in 1987, who in turn restored it to its present condition (it was most recently seen at the Autoclassica in Milan). Elitch then compares the Loraymo to Loewy’s Studebaker Avanti, and the traces become readily apparent.
There is an index, which is fairly complete. Although there are no notations or bibliography, quotes and facts are usually documented within the sentence. The Loraymo is an unusual car and the book is as unusual and as surprising as the car it describes. Not a one – marque book nor a history of design, Lancia, Loraymo and the Loewy Logic of Industrial Design is a unique and important portrait of a man, an era, and a car. And like the Loraymo itself, it is very deserving of your attention. In my opinion, Elitch is one of the few guys who has the comprehensive background needed to take on such a project; he is as well versed in both American and European automotive design, in Lancias as he is in Studebakers and has owned and restored cars from both sides of the pond.
There will only be five hundred copies printed; anyone interested in automotive design, Studebaker, Loewy, Lancia or the Loraymo would be well advised to buy now before those copies, like the Loraymo once did, disappear.