Legends of automobile design

06 Jul

By Annette McLeod for MSN Autos


Carroll Shelby

Automotive icon Carroll Shelby passed away in May of 2012 from a heart condition from which he’d suffered most of his life; it necessitated a heart transplant in 1990 and a kidney transplant in 1996. And yet, he still made it to age 89, proof that that good don’t always die young. Shelby made his permanent mark on design with the Mustang Cobra, and his mark on motorsports starting in the ’50s; he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in an Aston Martin in 1959. Shelby and his team get credit not only for souped-up Fords like the GT and the Mustang-based Shelby cars, but also for turning the K-car into a rocket, developing the Dodge Viper and creating the muscle truck. A moment of silence, please.


Giorgetto Giugiaro

Giugiaro won an international poll of automotive journalists under the management of the Global Automotive Elections Foundation to be named Car Designer of the Century in 1999; he was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2002. In addition to cars, Giugiaro also designed cameras for Nikon, computers for Apple, even pasta shapes, but his automotive designs were many and mostly pretty righteous, including a host of origami-based 1970s designs, the DeLorean DMC-12, Lotus Esprit S1, Audi 80, Alfa Romeo 159, BMW M1, and the late, unlamented Hyundai Pony. Oh, and he also pulled off the odd motorcycle for Ducati and Suzuki.


Harley Earl

A stroke carried Earl off to the great wrecker’s yard in the sky in 1969 at age 75. As GM’s first-ever vice president of design, Earl pioneered several techniques, such as freeform sketching and the use of hand-sculpted clay models. He also thought up the concept car as a design tool and marketing aid with the Buick Y-Job, which would eventually become the Corvette. He is widely credited with authorizing the introduction of the tail fin, but scuttlebutt has it he did so only reluctantly after higher-ups decided they liked the look. The Hollywood-born Earl also made a contribution to the art and science of camouflage in the Second World War.


Alec Issigonis

Sir Alec is the man from whose mind sprang the Mini, and that alone would earn him a spot, but he also designed the Morris Minor and the Austin 1100. The eccentric Issigonis was outspoken in his belief that market research was bunk, and even mathematics were ‘the enemy of every truly creative man.’ A reasonable position for a creative guy who repeatedly flunked math to take. Issigonis was born in Smyrna (then Greece, now the Turkish city of Izmir) to British parents in 1906. His father and grandfather were both engineers; his efforts to follow in their footsteps led him to an engineering program at Battersea Polytechnic, where he may have stunk at math, but he shone at drawing.


Bill Mitchell

Mitchell started sketching cars at an early age, presumably taking inspiration from his father’s Buick dealership. He parlayed the skill into a job as the official illustrator for the Automobile Racing Club of America before Harley Earl recruited him to GM in 1935, where he would go on to influence the design of landmark vehicles including the 1949 Cadillac Coupe DeVille, 1955 Chevy Bel Air, 1963 Corvette Stingray, and 1970 Chevrolet Camaro. Mitchell spent his entire automotive design career at GM, a total of 42 years that culminated as vice-president of design for the 19 years prior to his retirement in 1977.


Virgil Exner

Virgil Exner made his biggest mark designing ‘Forward Look’ cars for Chrysler in the 1950s. Soaring tail fins, lots of glass, a little chrome, and low belt-lines across the line-up. Prior to that, he’d gotten his start at Pontiac, and joined Raymond Loewy’s industrial design firm in the late 30s, where he helped shape the Studebaker line-up. The man behind the original Chrysler 300 and 300C won six national design awards. His 1960 Valiant featured radical long-hood, short-deck styling and was among the first computer-aided designs. When replaced at Chrysler following an unsuccessful design-downsizing on the 1962 Plymouths and Dodges, he went on to design boats.


Raymond Loewy

French-born Raymond Loewy spent most of his career in the U.S., where he was responsible for a host of non-automotive designs including a Greyhound bus, Shell and BP logos, vending machines, a couple of trains, refrigerators, and a cigarette package. But it’s Studebaker that got him on the list. Studebaker first retained Loewy as a consultant in the late ’30s, along with Virgil Exner. They went on to produce the 1953 line highlighted by the Starliner and Starlight coupes (credited in particular to team member Robert Bourke) and the early ’60s Avanti. Loewy also overhauled the logo and came up with Studebaker’s lazy S. He made the cover of Time magazine in 1949.


Frank Quick Hershey

Frank Quick Hershey authored the tail fins Earl finally approved, on the 1948 Cadillac, but carved his place in history by coming up with the Ford Thunderbird. Also, for being fairly openly gay (he had a wife and two kids) — and remember, he was born in 1907. He became lead designer at GM in 1931 and redesigned the 1933 Pontiac, adding the streak of chrome that would be the brand’s trademark for a long time after. Hershey worked for Opel in Germany just prior to the Second World War, and also worked at GM’s Australian division, Holden.


Battista “Pinin” Farina

Battista ‘Pinin’ Farina was the 10th of 11 children, born 1893 in Turin, Italy. At 12, Farina started working in his brother’s body shop and quickly learned enough to start designing cars of his own. He formed Carrozzeria Pininfarina (a coachworks) in 1930. He started working with Ferrari in 1952. He legally changed his name to ‘Battista Pininfarina’ in 1961. In his career, he worked with Maserati, Rolls, Cadillac, Jaguar, Volvo, Honda, Fiat and Lancia; he also designed trams, trains and trolleys in Europe and the U.S. The last design attributed to him personally was the 1600 Duetto for Alfa Romeo, which appeared at the Geneva Motor Show in 1966. Pininfarina died less than a month later.


Dick Teague

The prodigious Dick Teague has a wild back story, including losing the sight in one eye to an accident caused by one drunk driver that also turned his mom into an invalid, and then losing his father to another drunk driver. He also had a stint playing a girl on Our Gang. Teague would go on to influence designs at Kaiser, General Motors, Packard, and AMC including the 1963 Rambler Classic and Ambassador. He stayed with AMC from 1959 until he retired in 1983, leaving a totally awesome design legacy that included the Gremlin, Pacer, Javelin, Hornet and Matador coupe. He also helmed the Jeep Cherokee in the early ’80s.


The Callum Brothers

Dumfries, Scotland-born brothers Ian (1954, pictured in photo) and Moray (1958) both worked long stints at Ford, with Ian making his mark on the Blue Oval’s bread and butter cars of the 1980s, and Moray currently serving as director of design for Ford’s North American passenger cars. Moray served a respectable term at Mazda too, playing a prominent role in the brand’s early 21st-century revitalization. Ian is the current design director at Jaguar; his partnership with Peter Stevens and Tom Walkinshaw in TWR Design (for which he left Ford in 1990) resulted in the Aston Martin DB7 and Vanquish.


Trevor Creed

Trevor Creed retired as head of Chrysler design in 2008, leaving a legacy that included the PT Cruiser, Challenger, Viper, and Ram trucks. Creed has the dubious distinction of producing the Plymouth Prowler, too. Now 62, he was a 20-year Ford vet before joining Chrysler as Director of Interior Design and Color & Trim. A graduate of the University of West Midlands in Birmingham, England, Creed was awarded an Automotive Interiors Magazine Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995, and currently acts as chairman of the board for the Walter P. Chrysler Museum.


Chris Bangle

This quirky corn-fed Wisconsonite is currently in the midst of authoring a three-part, fictional e-series that takes place in the car industry of the future. The narrative gimmick for his Peter Teuful: A Tale of Car Design in 3 Parts is a Christmas Carol-y structure, a la Dickens. Even his website is a little surreal. Bangle made a big splash over the pond at Opel and Fiat before immortalizing himself in Munich with a 2002 BMW 7 Series overhaul that included the infamous Bangle Butt. The Bavarians’ first American chief of design, he left in 2009 to pursue his artistic interests with his own company, Chris Bangle and Associates, in Turin, Italy, leaving his post to the awesomely named Adrian van Hooydonk.


J Mays

Mays (whose actual first name is J, after his grandfather S J) currently serves as group vice president of global design and chief creative officer at Ford. In his early days, Mays worked on exteriors for Audi in Germany, including the Audi 80, and for BMW in Munich, where he contributed to the 5 Series and 8 Series cars of the early ’80s. Back at VW, he worked on the Golf and Polo. He unveiled the Audi Avus quattro concept at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1991, which would lead to the development of the TT by colleague Freeman Thomas. As chief designer of VW in the U.S., he developed the Concept 1 concept car in 1994, which would go into production as the New Beetle. He joined Ford in 1997.


Ralph Gilles

Ralph Gilles is president and CEO of Chrysler’s SRT brand, and senior veep of design of the Chrysler Group LLC, to which he ascended in 2008 after Trevor Creed; he joined Chrysler career in 1992. NYC born of Haitian parents and raised in Montreal, the exotic Gilles was named 2005 Motor Trend designer of the year. Gilles gets credit for the interiors of the 2003 Dodge Viper and 2002 Jeep Liberty, as well as a handful of nifty concepts, like the Jeep Jeepster and Dodge Viper GTS/R. We’ll admit that it’ll be a while before we know if he’s going to achieve truly legendary status, but he’s definitely the hottest designer on the list.

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Posted by on July 6, 2012 in Design, Hobbies, Travel


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