Detroit Motor City
One of Radebaugh's early hobbies was drawing sleek, futuristic cars. Even after he had honed his airbrush technique and was doing a wide variety of work in the late 1930s, he continued to create luminous, streamlined cars for magazines and ads.
The increasing amount of work he was getting from the auto industry led him to settle in Detroit, car capital of the world.
Radebaugh returned from his military service to a Detroit preparing for its Golden Jubilee, the 50th anniversary of the car capital of the world. Radebaugh had been commissioned to create a symbol for the Jubilee, one which appeared on letterheads, store windows, ties, hats and dresses.
Radebaugh's Golden Jubilee design was also built-- as a sixty five foot statue.
“[the] Queen of the Golden Jubilee will be the first woman in history to use atomic power for peacetime purposes in public ceremonies Wednesday night at 9 p.m. when she illuminates and sets in motion the spectacular automotive symbol in Detroit’s downtown Grand Circus Park to usher in the twelve-day Golden Jubilee celebration.
...The Queen will wave a wand of neutron-splitting beryllium over a tube of boron, smashing a boron atom. Energy thus produced will be transmitted to the symbol electrically to illuminate its spiralling neon conception of an atom in fission, its antique car and its modern car."
--Golden Jubilee press release
Radebaugh did many promotional drawings such as this one, from the collection of Jim Secreto, to attract art directors of local advertising agencies.
This illustration was done for a Chrysler brochure. Of the Big Three, Chrysler was the most appreciative of Radebaugh's eccentric style.
From the 1951 Chrysler Imperial brochure. The house in the background shows Radebaugh's continued interest in contemporary architecture, and is much different from his Deco-influenced structures in his earlier work.
Was Radebaugh dissatisfied with the annual cycles of slightly changed automobiles, which were his bread and butter, or did he take inspiration from the streamlined metallic cars which were born from minds like his, and riff from their forms, creating variants, mutants, the atomic car which has its four wheels trapezoidally arrayed so that only the middle two paralleled each other?
MoToR magazine was Radebaugh's most enduring work relationship. It's interesting to see the way Radebaugh's style altered after World War 2, moving away from the grim and glamorous avant-gardism of his early work, to a more campy and cartoony style, more suburban in its content and reassuring in its colors.