Just a Healey Pulling in for a Fill-Up
Rick sent in a link to this photo on the Anaheim Historical Society blog and I’m glad he did.
Even though the Austin-Healey 100 in the foreground is hardly identifiable to the casual observer, it is a vital part of the image. I know that because this was no casual snapshot by a pedestrian on the curb. This is a Julius Shulman photograph, who knows a thing or two about capturing an image of a piece of architecture. The gloved driver (captured here in her own car) is the wife of one of the Mobil station’s architects Whitney Smith or Wayne Williams.
Why did Schulman compose the image in this way? The Healey does help frame the photograph and give it some context while showing it in use. For me though, I immediately notice the design cues of the Austin-Healey; particularly one of my all-time favorite elements of automotive design—a feature that I’m surprised never became more popular in mid-century sportscar design: the folding windscreen. Something magical happens when you fold the Healey’s windscreen from the more upright touring mode to the raked, nearly flat racing angle. It is a sort of “call to arms” that must have been a thrilling ritual for many a Healey driver.
But perhaps that’s part of what Schulman intended with this photo. Pairing a modern piece of automotive design with an equally modern architectural nod to the automobile’s service. It makes me wonder if part of why recent automotive design has started to falter. Maybe there’s an unconsciously necessary balance of design and as the design of gas stations suffer, everything around it must fall to an equal level. After all, when a gas station can look this beautiful doesn’t your car need to follow suit?