Brooks Stevens is one of America’s great industrial design masters. Practicing design much in the same way his contemporaries like Raymond Loewy and John Vassos, Stevens designed products, machines and logos in virtually any industry, amassing a huge and diverse portfolio that covered architecture, industrial design and graphic design. Some of his most notable projects include the Miller Beer logo, the Evinrude Lark outboard motor, and the world-famous Oscar Meyer Weinermobile. His iconic design for the 1949 Harley-Davidson Hydra Glide is still in use on today’s Heritage range. Of course, the automobile industry played a huge role in Stevens’ illustrious career. He is perhaps best known for his work with Studebaker, redesigning the Grand Turismo Hawk on a miniscule budget, and also the Jeep Wagoneer, a design that remained virtually unchanged from 1963 through the model’s discontinuation in 1991. He also designed the original Excalibur sports car in conjunction with Kaiser, and the subsequent “neo-classic” models that came after. But one of his earliest contributions to the motoring industry came in 1955, with a car that he hoped would introduce American V8 power, as well as the Brooks Stevens name, to the European marketplace.
Brooks Stevens had a strong desire to be recognized in the European car design world. He was given the idea to design a luxury car worthy of the European show circuit; an automobile that would show the world what Brooks Stevens could do. With backing from a Cleveland-based real estate developer, Stevens began with a new 1955 Cadillac Series 60 Special chassis, and designed a flamboyant new body from the ground up. Die Valkyrie debuted at the Paris Auto Salon, with its huge, dramatic V-shaped grille and front bumper treatment that flowed out, bisecting the headlamps and traveling down the body sides in one line. A beautiful upward sweep ahead of the rear wheel arch was highlighted by a two-tone black and white color scheme, and the coupe roof was fully removable to make a four-seat convertible. Coachwork and construction was handled by Hermann Spohn of Ravensburg Germany. Spohn was a primary supplier of Maybach bodies prior to WWII, and his work also graced Hispano-Suiza, Mercedes-Benz and other chassis, so there was little question about quality.
Die Valkyrie was a big car, sharing the same 133-inch wheelbase as the Cadillac donor. But it also shared Cadillac’s OHV, 331 cubic inch dual-quad engine that made a solid 270 horsepower so performance was not lacking. Rumors even circulated that Cadillac considered backing the project as a way to break into the fickle European market, and Stevens made no attempt to hide the source of his donor vehicle. But ultimately, the project never went beyond two cars, the first which was purchased by Stevens himself as a gift for his wife who enjoyed the car for many thousands of miles before it went into the Brooks Stevens Museum where it remained through the mid-1990s.
We are very pleased to offer this Die Valkyrie, the very example that belonged to Brooks and Alice Stevens. Aside from one repaint it remains in fabulously original condition and still shows the miles that Alice put on the car during her time enjoying it. The fabulous, over-the-top styling of Die Valkyrie is of course the first thing that grabs your attention. But as you look closer, you see it is a fully functional luxury automobile, not merely a styling exercise. Spohn’s craftsmanship is outstanding, as the car is beautifully constructed and detailed. It is still presented in its original color scheme of white and black with virtually every original detail still in place. Given its largely unrestored and original condition, there are a few minor blemishes that appear in the paintwork and elsewhere, though they hardly detract from the drama and glamour of Brooks Stevens’ fabulous design. The extensive original chrome trim is intact and in very fine condition, showing little wear and no damage, further backing the incredibly low original mileage. It rides on its original wheels which are adorned with original Cadillac hubcaps and shod with a set of very unusual US Royal Master tires which mimic the turbine styling of the hubcaps in their sidewalls. The car is incredibly dramatic; long, low and wide with that signature “cow catcher” grille up front.
The interior is trimmed in black leather which has been beautifully preserved in completely original and unrestored condition. It is believed the large, plush chairs may share components with a Mercedes 300 which is entirely feasible given its construction at Spohn in Germany. Carpets are in fine condition and the door panels are beautifully styled with sunburst pattern leather, accented with a white flash and topped with a polished speed-form trim. The dash is essentially standard issue Cadillac, which typically high quality controls and switchgear.
Mechanically, Die Valkyrie remains in a highly original and unrestored state. The Cadillac 331 is topped with original dual-quad intake and original “bat wing” air cleaner. The engine bay is tidy and has been carefully detailed, to ensure its high levels of originality have not been erased. It features power steering and brakes as original and the remainder of the chassis and drivetrain are all factory Cadillac components, allowing for straightforward servicing.
This is an incredible opportunity to acquire an automobile that Brooks Stevens designed to highlight his immense talents. It has remarkable history as the Paris show car, as the very car that his wife Alice enjoyed driving, and the car that was retained by the Stevens museum for decades. It has survived in remarkably original condition thanks to the efforts of the previous caretaker, the only other owner outside the Stevens family. A fabulous and dramatic piece of mid-century design history and presented in magnificently well-preserved condition, Die Valkyrie is sure to be welcome at virtually concours event worldwide, and would make a most welcome centerpiece to any collection of rare and exciting concept cars.
Aug 10, 2015