Here’s the thing about car design: it’s not something you can start and stop at will. Car designers are people who are constantly coming up with new ideas, even if they’re not needed. Recently, a group of 20 retired designers decided to get together in Royal Oak, Michigan to share some of their designs.
The theme was a celebration of mid-20th-century car design. The group is known as the League of Retired Auto Designers. They were founded by the GM design chief, Chuck Jordan. Here these designers could dream up their fantasy car without the restrictions of marketing or realism.
The results, as you can imagine, were spectacular. Today we’ll take a look at six of these retro-futuristic designs.
The Dream Cars of Retired Auto Designers
First we take a look at Wayne Kady and his Cadillac turbine car. “When you’d finished one program but before starting a new one, you could just do whatever inspired you, to cleanse the palate, so to speak,” said Kady.
During his career he was the head of Cadillac and Buick studios. He had a storied career of 38 years at General Motors. “It was a fun time when you didn’t have to satisfy anyone but yourself,” he says. His concept on display here is a watercolor depiction of an imaginary turbine-powered Cadillac.
“It was that era, the turbine Firebirds I, II, and II were out there, we had the entire range of powertrains to work with: hydrogen, electrics, whatever.” This was a 1962 era style car.
Next we have Bill Robinson. He showcased a rocket style pod of sorts saying, “That rocket-looking thing in the cabinet there, I drew it when I was 20, trying to get a job.” He managed to catch a position as a brochure illustrator and then moved to Chrysler.
“My idea was to earn enough money to go back and finish school. Well, in two years I was making enough to buy two new Cadillacs every year. I wasn’t going back to school.” He eventually retired in 1980 and then picked up a new career treaching at CCS until 2002. At the event he celebrated his 90th birthday.
Next up is Vincent Geraci. He began his career in the 1950’s working at Chrysler. He retired in 1990. He describes his car (pictured above) saying, “This drawing from 1968 was an idea wondering what a unique show car might be using Gremlin cues.”
He points to the top car in the photo, “And this is a project I did with other AMC retirees in 2004, imagining a modern Marlin.”
Buck Mook claims that he’s always being blamed for the Mustang II. “When the league asked us to reimagine one of our projects for this century, I though, why not?”
He references a photo of the original Mustang II and compares it to his concept, “Production thickened the front fender over these tiny wheels because Henry Ford II wanted to see a big, long hood out the windshield. So, I went the other direction with the new one.”
The above “mystery model” is of Ron Konopka’s design. He was a studio clay modeler at Ford and Chrysler. He believes cars are best viewed as three-dimensional sculptures. “This one is a mystery, I haven’t been able to pin down who did it or even for what company. It obviously never made production, but it’s someone’s dream.
Finally, we look to Bill Michalak, who worked with Oldsmobile and Pontiac for the majority of his career. “One of my favorite between-project assignments was to imagine a Chevy fifteen years from now,” he says.
“You got to really stretch on things like that. The other side, my original sketch for the Hurst Olds package, was in production in about 60 days. You couldn’t refine it, and the technology at the time wasn’t what we have now.” He joined GM in 1966 and retired in 2001.
Hungry For More Car Designs?
These are just some of the 70+ pieces of concept car design examples on display at the Royal Oak Historical Museum. These are part of the “Chrome, Fins, and Style” exhibit. As part of this gathering, Robert Edwards was presenting doing filming and interviews for his documentary entitled American Dreaming: Detroit Automotive Styling, 1946-1973.
They currently have 70 hours of material which they plan to edit into a 90-minute documentary. “We hope to have it finished by next spring,” he said. They turned to an Indiegogo campaign to secure funding for the project.
That being said, they are still looking for additional investments and backing to support the project. It’s always interesting to turn back the clock on car design and take a look at what people in the past thought the future would be like.
All Images via Car and Driver