The Original Motorhead

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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What makes a spring sexy? I’ve pondered that question ever since I saw the photo below. I was attracted to it in a way that defies comprehension. It’s just a hand holding a small part of an automobile. It was tucked away in the August 1940 Motor magazine, one of many such journals that were aimed at all of us who have cars and enjoy the art of mechanics. Well, that leaves me out on one count at least. But I was totally absorbed by this image. Possibly, it is the unromantic black-and-white image against the blood-red background. Red gives the most mundane things a kind of immediacy. Or maybe it’s just the simplicity of this important coil.

How car parts were sold in this country was not as sensual as cars themselves (for that stimulation, go here). But there was (and still is, for all I know) immediacy combined with functionality and a dose of fantasy. The ads below were produced a year before the U.S. entered World War II, so they were attempting to uplift before the hardcore war effort began.

What makes this spring sexy? Maybe nothing at all, except that something so fundamental deserved to be photographed in the first place.


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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

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