Regular readers here will have noticed a few recurrent mythical products we like to use for type specimens. There’s “Chocolate Ambrosine”, for instance, and “Automobiles Hirondelle”. Here’s a bit of fun (originally posted on Behance) exploring the history of one of the latter firm’s post-war car designs.
A bit (quite a lot, actually…) of pleasant daydreaming with a pencil and sketchbook. People who’ve seen my typographic work will know that I use a number of mythical products, advertising for which forms the basis of specimens to display my typeface designs. One of these is ‘Chocolate Ambrosine’ and another, with due acknowledgement to Leslie Charteris is ‘Automobiles Hirondelle’, the Anglo-French manufacturer of quality automobiles.
These sketches consider the development of Hirondelle’s post-war large saloon, and derivatives from the late 1940’s until the present day, and are a work of pure fiction. I had great fun though…
HIRONDELLE SIX – An Automotive Fiction
Here’s the first all new postwar Hirondelle design, launched in 1948. An all new design but with a lot of pre-war influence, this is a saloon with a standard steel body shell, stylish transport for the well heeled family who can no longer quite afford a chauffeur in straightened times.As the company’s only car in production at the time it needs no name beyond the Hirondelle Saloon, though sometimes also called the Hirondelle Six.
The Hirondelle Saloon was to stay in production in it’s original for until 1954. At some time in its production run the ‘Six’ name was formally adopted by the company. During that six year run, some cars made it in to the hands of coachbuilders for customisation into more exotic forms, such as this shooting brake by Warner of Leamington.
Late 1954 saw the launch of the Hirondelle Six Mk II, with somewhat cleaner lines which gave less hints of pre-war ancestry. A very popular car in it’s day, beloved of prosperous doctors, bank managers and so forth, but still with a good turn of speed. A lot of design features were cleaned up and refined in the Mk II. The new vertical radiator grill, still in Hirondelle’s traditional cowling, was much more elegant, for example.
As before, some Mk II’s escaped to the coach builders, this elegant coupe, by Launer of Paris, being an example of one such.
1957 brought the 6 Mk III, with even cleaner lines, and headlights fully faired into the wings. All cars were still supplied in the firm’s traditional two tone colour schemes and the traditional expansive chromium radiator cowl remained. Bumper overriders appeared for the first time, their mounting bar being very handy for AA and RAC members. The rear wheel ached were fully integrated into the body shell and the wheelbase slightly lengthened. Many aficionados maintain the Mk III to be the high point of the 6 line…
Late 1960 brought the 6 Mk IV and the first real intrusions of modernity. The two-tone paintwork and ‘suicide’ rear doors remained, but were jointed by a squarer roof line and lights borne in tail fins. The classic Hirondelle radiator shell has been cut back somewhat, and the illuminated ‘Swallow’ mascot is gone.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the 6’s perception as a ‘quality’ saloon, one distinguished London retailer approached the firm to produce a commodious delivery van derived from the car. This they duly did, and the Hirondelle ‘Carter’ as it became known attracted an extensive range of other customers, becoming known as a dependable commercial vehicle and staying in production in this form, despite subsequent changes to, and ultimately the demise of, the saloon which spawned it, into the mid 1970s.
The Mk IV was to maintain the 6’s popularity as a basis for exclusive customisation by coach builders. This coupe is an elegant adaptation of the type by Mayhew of Park Lane.
This drop head coupe show’s another fine example of Mayhew’s elegant design work.
The enthusiasm for timber-framed shooting brakes continued well. This example is from Waterley of Barnes, veteran builders of modified Hirondelle 6’s, and includes that firm’s modification to the radiator grill.
Fated to be the last of the line as Automobiles Hirondelle morphed into the commercial vehicle producer AHC in 1973, the ‘6’ MK V presented a further simplified and yet more modern outline to the world when it appeared in 1964. Still seen as quality vehicle, if somewhat dated by the end of it’s life, the Mk V hung on until the final year of car production, the last car leaving the factory on 23 October 1973. Such is the quality of their engineering and construction that two thirds of the total production run are still registered and on the road.
Compared to earlier marks only a handful of V’s found their way into the hands of coach builders. This estate car was constructed by Canfield of Birmingham.
Even after production ended there was to be something of a continuation of the ‘6’ saga. Though outdated in conventional terms, the vehicle had its particular qualities and a devoted following. Recognising this,Mayhew the Park Lane coach-builders embarked on a new and remarkable undertaking. By the time production had ended, Automobiles Hirondelle had already morphed into the commercial vehicle manufacturer AHC. The tooling for the 6 was purchased by Mayhew from the latter concern in order to continue small scale, hand-built construction of what now became the ‘Mayhew 6’ with coachwork to that company’s own refined standards in a purpose made factory set up at Lavenham in Suffolk.
Early Mayhew 6’s could be distinguished by the red triangular emblem over the radiator grill. Over time, Mayhew’s coach builders would indulge in ever greater departures from the original 6 body shell, as in the rear light fins and fastback of this coupe example. The Mayhew 6, forever redolent of the 1960s would go on to prove that quality always transcends fashion, continuing in production, ever subtly refined and improved, into the 21st century.
Here are two later examples of the Mayhew Six – yes after all those years they reverted to ‘Six’ from the turn of the 21st century. These are typical of Mayhew’s work, subtly modernised and very stylish, but well and truly harking back to another time. Still, there is a two-year waiting list for this sort of thing, so examples like this coupe and wood-panelled shooting break must get something right…