Category: American Car Resources

How A Scottish Designer Inspired by American Classics Creates Modern Designs for the Global Market – Jim Koscs @Hemmings

How A Scottish Designer Inspired by American Classics Creates Modern Designs for the Global Market – Jim Koscs @Hemmings

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What do the 1959 Jaguar Mk. II, 1963 Corvette Sting Ray, and 1965 Buick Riviera have in common with the 1994 Aston Martin DB7, 2001 Aston Martin Vanquish, 2014 Jaguar F-Type, and the ProDrive BRX Hunter that took second at the 2022 Dakar Rally?

The first three classics helped inspire a young Scot to seek a career in automobile design. The other four are among the products of his still-going career that included leading Jaguar design for 20 years and getting Aston Martin design back on track for the new century. Designs that he says inspired him, and those that he later created, share the common thread of making an emotional impact that resonates across generations.

The BRX Hunter comes from Callum’s design firm in Warwick, England, named, simply, Callum. A supercar yet to be announced will also join the firm’s portfolio. Meanwhile, Callum’s firm has also turned to projects as disparate as future “mobility hubs” for cities and, what Callum calls a “first love,” furniture design. The latter includes his own modern take on the classic Eames Chair.

Callum spoke with Hemmings to discuss the art of infusing modern automobile design with the kind of emotion that can make cars compelling and memorable—regardless of the powertrain. We started with his own connection to the American classics he loves.

Though Callum does not own a Riviera or C2 ’Vette, he does have a ’32 Ford hot rod and is restoring a 1971 Chevy C-10 pickup. For a while, he owned a ’56 Chevy that he says was an internet impulse purchase. The pickup has a Chevy small block, but, down the road a few years, Callum envisions an EV conversion for the truck and a pair of classic Mini Coopers.

The Exotic Buick

Many Hemmings readers (and authors) grew up seeing the first-gen Riviera and the C2 Corvette as daily drivers in their towns, but Callum, born in Scotland in 1954, mainly saw those cars only in photos. He tells Hemmings that rarely seeing these cars in person – and almost always at special events rather than on the road – gave him a unique perspective that helped shape his ideas on design.

Photo by Thomas A. DeMauro.

“I didn’t grow up with these cars,” he says. “My context of them was something very exotic. I grew fonder of them as I got older and understood the depths of their design. They’re just beautiful pieces of design. That size of the Riviera, common in the U.S. back then, was so exotic to me when I was younger. Because it was so large and long, designers could express themselves more easily.”

That’s not to say Callum treats those classics as sacred artifacts. Given the chance, he says he would “retro-mod” them. (We Yanks call it restomodding.) Callum believes that thoughtfully chosen design, mechanical, and interior upgrades don’t hurt a classic but rather can renew it for more years of even greater enjoyment

Photo courtesy of GM.

“I appreciate original designs, but there’s always room for improvement with a better powertrain, suspension, wheels, brakes, and instrumentation,” he says. “My rationale is, if the original designers of those cars had what we have at our disposal now, they’d probably do some of the same things. If I had the Riviera, I’d lower it and put on bigger wheels.

”That particular idea has a solid precedent. William L. Mitchell, the eminent head of GM design who instigated the Riviera, was said to feel that the chopped-roof 1963 Silver Arrow I concept was the best expression of the design. Callum cites Mitchell as one of his design heroes, along with Giorgetto Giugiaro and Sergio Pininfarina.

“I’m sure Bill Mitchell would have liked to see 19-inch wheels on the Riviera,” he says.

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Foose Design | 1949 Cadillac Gets Upgraded

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Bob “Bones” and Carolyn’s 1949 Cadillac is a beauty, but often leaves them stranded. So we helped build them a cruiser that could go coast to coast while leaving the body alone and focusing on drivability and comfort.

Modifications-

•LS3 w/ 6speed 6L90E transmission

•Roadster Shop Chassis

•Custom exhaust system utilizing Magnaflow components and 4 mufflers

•Custom fuel tank from Rick’s Tanks

•Baer Brakes

•Rewired electrical

•Fixed top and windows

•Repainted firewall and hood

•Vintage Air system

•Custom 18″ wheels designed by Chip, machined by Mike Curtis/Curtis Speed Equipment

The Benefits of Bearing Down: My Career in Car Design – Rod Williams

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I was a car designer with Ford and Chrysler in the 1950s, a time of powerful, classic cars. What made my employment as a designer unique is that I was a 23-year-old farm boy from Millinocket with no formal art training, and in the U.S. Navy, at the time Ford hired me. I still had a year before my enlistment discharge a year later in June 1954. I began work at Ford just a few weeks later. At that time Ford, GM, Chrysler, and American Motors all had a hiring policy that required new designer applicants to be art or design school graduates. How did I manage to slip between the cracks? 

Back to the past. I was just a typical young car nut in my high school teens, and I was good at drawing, so I did just that, doing drawings of cars . . . mostly my own designs.  After graduating from high school, I wanted to continue in art and design as a professional career, but I could not afford to go to art school. However, when the Korean war broke out, the GI Bill benefits were re-instated.  I joined the Navy to obtain the college benefits upon my discharge in 1954.  

Unfortunately, I never got to use or need the benefits.  Ford Motor Company had made me a design job offer while I was still in the Navy. This unusual situation took place because a national car magazine published some of my car designs in an article titled “Dream Car Sailor.” During my Navy enlistment, I had continued designing cars in my spare time. This was the totally unexpected, surprising result of that spacetime activity. 

I began employment with Ford in July 1954, just two weeks after my Navy discharge. I began work in their Advanced Design Studio, which was composed of a dozen or more newly employed design school graduates.  However, I was not a design school graduate, the only one without that qualification. It was an exceptional opportunity, but it presented many challenges to my novice art and design talent. I quickly realized I was “behind the eight ball,” so to speak, and that it would be a daunting task to succeed, compete, and advance in the situation I found myself

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Were Cadillac’s first tailfins originally destined for a Vauxhall? – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

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Pretty much every history of automotive tailfins establishes the Harley Earl-led field trip of GM designers in 1940 to see the then-secret P-38, then jumps right on ahead to 1948, when the newly restyled Cadillac debuted, tailfins and all. Franklin Q. Hershey often gets a nod, and that’s about all most people care to dig into it.

Were they to dig a little further, though, they might discover a more meandering development path for the tailfin, one that nearly placed the feature onto Vauxhall’s postwar cars instead of Cadillac’s.

The story of the tailfin—at least, as it appeared on postwar production American automobiles and not on the odd custom car or land-speed racer—does indeed begin with that field trip to Selfridge Field near Detroit, where Earl pulled some strings to get his studio chiefs a good look at the twin-boom Lockheed P-38 Lightning, a plane designed specifically as an interceptor. And indeed, as Michael Lamm and Dave Holls noted in A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design, the P-38 proved plenty inspiring.

Pretty much every history of automotive tailfins establishes the Harley Earl-led field trip of GM designers in 1940 to see the then-secret P-38, then jumps right on ahead to 1948, when the newly restyled Cadillac debuted, tailfins and all.

The designers got all excited about the P-38, especially since they could see its twin tails as extensions of a car’s rear fenders. They went back to their studios and started doing sketches of cars with tailfins. The P-38 also prompted other aircraft motifs: Plexiglas canopies, various types of air intakes, grille spinners and bumper bullets.

Among those who Earl invited: Bill Mitchell; Ned Nickles; and Hershey, who returned from a stint in Europe the year before to head the Cadillac advanced studio. Hershey reportedly became fascinated with the tailfin idea before moving on to other projects and, eventually, going back overseas to serve in the Navy during the war.As William Knoedelseder wrote in FINS: Harley Earl, the Rise of General Motors, and the Glory Days of Detroit, Hershey saw nature and poetry in those fins.

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Rockets and radio control cars: goofing off at Ford in the Fifties – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

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Employers! Worried that your employees newly assigned to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic are just goofing off, being lazy, and shooting productivity down the hole? Well, hey, lemme tell ya about Ford Motor Company in the Fifties, where it seemed like shenanigans—undertaken in the office—were the order of the day.

Or, at least, that’s the impression we get from a couple of stories related to Jim and Cheryl Farrell for their book Ford Design Department Concepts and Showcars, 1932-1961. One of the stores, concerning the 1954 LaTosca, we’ve alluded to in our previous look at the futuristic Fords that Alex Tremulis had a hand in creating while with the company.

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1967 COPO Corvette ordered by GM designer Bill Mitchell set for auction – Bob Golfen @ClassicCars.com

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The well-documented one-of-a-kind convertible will be offered by Russo and Steele at its Scottsdale sale in January

A one-of-one 1967 Chevrolet Corvette COPO, special ordered by General Motors design head Bill Mitchell for his wife, Marianne, to cruise around in, will be auctioned in January during Russo and Steele’s Scottsdale sale.

Mitchell is credited with the styling of the second-generation Corvette with its signature hideaway headlights, and he obtained this final-year model as a Central Office Production Order, through which dealers and other insiders could create sensational COPO performance cars.

The well-documented one-of-a-kind convertible will be offered by Russo and Steele at its Scottsdale sale in January

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Related – Bill Mitchell’s wife didn’t drive an ordinary Corvette

Never-built Virgil Exner concept car rendering takes form 75 years later – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

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Never-built Virgil Exner concept car

Metalshaper Wray Schelin says he can teach an absolute beginner in metalshaping how to form a car fender in just a week, and he’s decided to back that claim up by assigning his metalshaping students to create a super-slick Virgil Exner-penned car body design that the world has never seen in sheetmetal.

“I just thought it was the coolest future car I’d ever seen,” Schelin said of the circa-1945 rendering that Exner drew during his time with Studebaker. “As soon as I saw it, I said, ‘Well, I’m making that.’”

Schelin, who offers coachworking classes out of his shop in Charlton, Massachusetts, grew up around his grandfather’s restoration business and old car library, but said he never came across the drawing until an acquaintance of his posted it to Facebook a year and a half ago.

Never-built Virgil Exner concept car

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Related –  One-off Exner-designed Duesenberg Model D revival prototype

That Exner design is great and all, but when it comes to building never-built vehicles… – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

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Building never-built vehicles

First off, props to Wray Schelin for taking on a circa-1945 Virgil Exner design as the inspiration for one of his student metalshaping projects. We’ve seen other such projects in the past – for instance, Rob Ida’s work on the Tucker Carioca, the Slovak Design Center’s work on the Tatra T603X, and Mel Francis’s work on Syd Mead’s Sentinel 280 – and certainly hope to see more talented metalshapers and prototype builders take on unbuilt vehicle renderings from the past.

Building never-built vehicles

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Related – 13 long-lost Ford Mustang concept cars

What makes the ’32 Ford so iconic? | Foose on Design – Ep. 1

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What makes the ’32 Ford so iconic?

There are only a select number of automotive designs that have an almost universal draw, and the 1932 Ford Model B stands near the top of that short list. Whether factory or heavily customized, the ’32 Ford has a gorgeous appeal, but why is that? Chip Foose sat down with a pen and our cameras to share his thoughts about how this 87-year-old design is still relevant today.

What makes the ’32 Ford so iconic?

Related – We borrow the ’32 Ford roadster from the Hagerty ‘library’

More on the 1932 Ford here at Wikipedia