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Cars You Should Know: The Arrowhead Teardrop

An Aerodynamic Triumph Ahead of its Time

By Leo Shvedsky
December 16 2021
The Arrowhead Teardrop looking slick. 

Surrounded by tech so advanced that we can buy a car with the simple wave of our mobile in front of an auto kiosk, or marketing so innovative the Netflix series you’re binge watching is wrapped around the #4 Bus that takes you from North Hollywood to Century City, it’s easy to categorize these innovations as being distinctly modern. In truth, however, the advancements we see today are standing on the shoulders of giants.  

Among those giants:  The Arrowhead Teardrop, quite literally the publicity vehicle designed during the 1930s by the West Coast-based Arrowhead Water Company as an alternative marketing tactic beyond highways billboards and word-of-mouth at the office water cooler. Today the infamous “Teardrop” is recognized and (deeply) admired by niche classic car enthusiast circles as a time capsule of sorts, reflecting not only the history of marketing but also representing an important shift in American automobile design techniques and concepts.  

A friendly reminder of how far back some innovations go.

Arrowhead commissioned the renaissance creative of the genre W.E. Miller, an industrial designer who was recognized for prolific design concepts spanning various industries and products including advertisements and cars.   

The idea at the time was that no object in the world was more aerodynamic than a simple water drop, shaped entirely by natural processes.  What better image to evoke thirst, thought Miller, than a water drop? Hence the teardrop shape. 

Just wow. 

Built with a flathead V8 and a three-wheeled chassis from cars like the Morgan, and a sort of a proto-Slingshot, the design was something completely novel for American cars, which at the time were built to look like horseless carriages, despite the horse and coach having been obsolete for decades. Conceptually Arrowhead’s Teardrop design was an absolute revelation for product developers across the world.  

Since Teardrop’s inception, the design has been subtly integrated into a few of the world’s most stunning high-performance vehicles.  From Pininfarina’s Ferraris to modern day classics like the Volkswagen Minibus with its completely sheer front. Heck, on a more grass roots level, State and street fairs across the U.S. have the Teardrop to thank for inspiring Oscar-Meyer’s Wienermobile – we’re talking community building! 

The parallels between the minibus and the Teardrop are striking. 

In the end, the Arrowhead Teardrop’s part marketing, part car integration is a humbling reminder that every generation advances because of the mistakes and successes of one that precedes it. No generation operates in isolation of another. 

Related: Flying Cars In Your City: Arriving Any Minute Now



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