Tag: Designers

Leopold Garcia’s near-mythical El Chicito and City Car to appear at new Route 66 museum – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

Leopold Garcia’s near-mythical El Chicito and City Car to appear at new Route 66 museum – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


Only a handful of photographs depicting Leopold Garcia’s El Chicito are known to exist. Even fewer of his other car, known only as the City Car. Garcia himself remains something of an enigma to automotive historians, and the whereabouts of his vehicles were kept so secret that some supposed the cars no longer existed. Yet all of that stands to change later this year when a Route 66 Visitors Center and museum in Albuquerque, not far from where Garcia built his cars, will open with the two cars on display.

“It’s an honor to have these cars showcased at the Route 66 Visitor’s Center,” said Klarissa Peña, an Albuquerque city councilor whose district includes the visitors center. “Leopoldo Garcia lived in New Mexico, so it’s a fitting tribute to honor his innovative work here along Route 66.”

Garcia, according to researcher Robert Cunningham, studied engineering and sculpture at the University of New Mexico before apparently coming to own a salvage yard in El Llanito, a tiny settlement just north of Bernalillo, which in turn is just north of Albuquerque. Cunningham noted that Garcia built a small three-wheeled electric vehicle able to “be operated by a person with only one good limb” before he set out to put his own stamp on contemporary auto design.

According to an April 1957 Motor Life article on his El Chicito, Garcia “looked at the current boxy styles from Detroit and concluded that he would create something not so square.” He started with a 1940 Ford chassis that he cut down to a wheelbase of just 80 inches. (The AMC Gremlin, for comparison’s sake, rode on a 96-inch wheelbase.) The Motor Life article reported that Garcia worked out his design on paper and in clay before roaming his junkyard in search of “curved sections which came closest to approximating the pre-conceived form.” Garcia apparently characterized that form as “fleshy,” Motor Life described it as “organic rather than geometric,” and in that vein Garcia later rechristened El Chicito as Bubbles.

Once he had all his pieces, he then started to weld them together, adding a couple late Thirties Ford taillamps, a Continental-style spare tire cover, headlamps in the shape of eyes, and a homebuilt convertible top. The design essentially precluded doors, so Garcia decided to make entry easier by hinging the windshield to tilt forward.

For power, the Motor Life article claims an unspecified Ford V-8 engine, but Cunningham wrote that Garcia used a 1954 Mercury V-8, which would make it a 161-hp, four-barrel, 256-cu.in., overhead-valve Y-block. No details on the transmission, but Garcia apparently decided that the exhaust pipes could double as rear bumpers. In total, he claimed to have spent just $800 building the 2,200-pound car and displayed it as far afield as Sioux Falls, Minneapolis, Des Moines, and Indianapolis

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


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


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


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


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

5 MINUTES WITH STEVE STANFORD – Ashley Majeski Smissen @FuelCurve


Steve Stanford has played a major part in hundreds of hot rod and custom car projects – without ever picking up a hammer or wrench. As one of the most-respected and well-known custom car designers and automotive artists, Stanford has had a hand (literally) in some of the most prolific vehicles of recent times, including the “Eleanor” GT500 featured in the film “Gone in 60 Seconds.”

Despite his success, the St. Louis native still works out of an old trailer behind Pete Santini’s paint and body shop in Westminster, California. “I’m a one-man band,” Stanford says. “I don’t need a lot and I don’t need to put on a dog-and-pony show. I’m not fancy. The most important thing is the artwork and it has always been that way to me.”

Read the article here

You may be cool, but are you ‘Studebaker Cool?’ – Kurt Ernst @Hemmings


Brooks Stevens’s Sceptre concept, designed for Studebaker. Photo courtesy Milwaukee Art Museum.

From its start as a manufacturer of horse-drawn wagons to its demise as an independent automaker competing head-to-head with Detroit’s Big Three, Studebaker enjoyed over a century of success. Opening on May 18 at the AACA Museum Inc. in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Studebaker Cool: 114 Years of Innovation narrates the history of the imaginative brand with a display of over 40 vehicles, focusing primarily on the years between 1906 and the end of automobile production in 1966.

Among the vehicles scheduled for display is a battery-electric wagon from Studebaker’s early days as a powered vehicle manufacturer. Built to carry congressmen through the tunnels connecting the Capitol to government office buildings nearby, the 1908 Studebaker Electric “Carry All” was one of two such models built for this purpose.

Read Kurt’s article here


Richard Sias’s 1968 Dodge Charger design both defined and ended his career at Chrysler – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


Richard Sias should, by many of his contemporaries’ accounts, be as widely hailed an automotive designer today as any of those contemporaries themselves. Instead, he exited the auto design world not long after getting bypassed for recognition for his work on the 1968 Dodge Charger, a design that has since become one of the most iconic of the muscle car era.

Read Daniel’s article here

Harley Earl, Bill Mitchell Corvettes offered as single lot at Kissimmee auction Jan 2019 – Larry Edsall @Classiccar.com Journal


’63 coupe and ’64 convertible created by and for GM styling leaders

The 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray convertible built for Harley Earl and the ’64 Corvette Sting Ray coupe created for his successor, Bill Mitchell, will be offered as a single lot at Mecum Auctions’ Kissimmee, Florida, sale scheduled for January 3-13, 2019.

“This is a singularly historic offering of two of the most significant one-off Corvettes in the model’s history, owned and driven by the two most influential and fascinating figures of the automotive design industry,” Mecum Auctions said in revealing the consignment.


See Larry Edsall’s article here