As we delve into the annals of automotive history, we often encounter captivating examples of visionary concepts that were simply too far ahead of their time. One such notable exemplar is the Western Clipper, a striking vehicle from the 1930s that looks as if it leapt off the pages of a retro-futurist science fiction novel. It was designed by the prodigious industrial designer Brooks Stevens, who was no stranger to the unusual and innovative.

Stevens, born in 1911, was a maverick in the realm of industrial design, known for a wide range of creations spanning many industries. From home appliances to the iconic Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, his creations bore the signature of innovation and unique design flair. Yet, the Western Clipper, commissioned by the Western Printing and Lithography Co., stands out for its unparalleled ambition and sheer audacity, even within the Stevens’ eclectic portfolio.


The Western Clipper, unveiled in 1937, was a marvel of design and engineering. It was conceived as a mobile showroom that could transport salesmen and samples across the country, providing a striking spectacle wherever it went. Its unique design philosophy was drawn from the streamline moderne style, reflecting the era’s fascination with speed, motion, and the future.

The Clipper’s distinctive design began with a teardrop body, a radical departure from the boxy form prevalent in the era’s automobiles. This form was not just a stylistic choice; it also offered improved aerodynamics. Housed within the vehicle’s shell was a complete, miniaturized office, equipped with desks, storage space, and other necessary furniture. The Western Clipper was a showroom, office, and vehicle all rolled into one, encapsulating the spirit of mobility and entrepreneurship that defined the era.

Under the hood, the Western Clipper featured a rear-mounted flathead Ford V8 engine and front-wheel drive, an unusual setup for the time. Its 22 feet long body was built on a truck chassis, granting it durability and the ability to traverse the challenging road conditions of the era. The vehicle’s rear was equipped with an unusual feature: a tapering tail section that housed a fifth wheel, making it easier to maneuver the vehicle in tight spaces.

The interior was as futuristic as the exterior. Upon entering the vehicle, salesmen found themselves in a modern office space with natural light pouring in from skylights. The design included fold-down desks, filing cabinets, and even a small kitchenette. The vehicle was an ingenious response to the demands of its time, combining a mobile office and a promotional vehicle in a singular, streamlined package.

Despite its ingenious design, the Western Clipper was far from a commercial success. Only two were ever produced, making it a rare gem in automotive history. The reasons for its lack of commercial success were many, including the high production costs and the onset of World War II, which shifted national priorities away from innovative commercial design.

Yet, the Western Clipper endures as an exemplar of forward-thinking design, a testament to Stevens’ visionary spirit. It was a vehicle that was truly ahead of its time, embodying a futuristic vision of mobility that remains relevant in today’s increasingly mobile and connected world. The Western Clipper stands as a fascinating snapshot of an era when designers dared to dream, unencumbered by the constraints of the present, creating visions that continue to inspire today.


In retrospect, the Western Clipper symbolizes a time when design sought to harmonize form with function, creating vehicles that were as aesthetically captivating as they were practical. It is this legacy of innovation and design that continues to inspire automotive enthusiasts and historians alike. Brooks Stevens’ Western Clipper was indeed a bold stride into the future, etched into the past.

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