AUTOMOTIVE DESIGN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
The Reminiscences of John Najjar
Reminiscence from the 1981 and 1984 Interviews with John Najjar. Automotive Design Oral History, Accession 1673. Benson Ford Research Center. The Henry Ford.
This oral reminiscence is the result of a series of interviews with John Najjar by Douglas A. Bakken and David R. Crippen during 1981 and 1984 at The Edison Institute, Dearborn , Michigan . These interviews were held under the auspices of the Edsel B. Ford Design History Center , Archives & Library Collections, The Edison Institute.
The questioning was primarily in the form of topics suggested to Mr. Najjar concerning his career. No editorial insertions have been made.
The language of the narrative is entirely that of the interviewee. He has reviewed and corrected the manuscript, and by his signature below, indicated that it is a correct copy of his reminiscences.
This transcript and the recorded tape are deposited in the Archives at The Edison Institute with the understanding that they may be used by qualified researchers for scholarly purposes. The undersigned does hereby release to The Edison Institute all literary rights to this interview.
This is Douglas Bakken, October 28, 1981 . We're here at the Ford Archives at Greenfield Village , Henry Ford Museum . We're going to talk with John Najjar today. John is a resident of Dearborn . He lives at 5 Brookwood Lane . John was an employee with Ford Motor Company from December, 1936, until January, 1980. I'll be talking with John, and also interviewing John will be Mike Davis from the Public Relations Department at the Ford Motor Company. John, we're happy to have you here today and get this chance to talk with you.
A: Thank you.
Q: We'd like to start off with some questions about your family, and, if we may, could you tell us some things about your parents for us?
A: Well, gladly. Mother was born in 1894 in Omaha , Nebraska , and my father, I'm not sure. I think he was born in Cairo , Egypt , and came to the United States . In the tradition of the older families, which my grandfather followed, my grandfather married my mother off' to him. And along about 1918, I was born. We lived in Omaha, Nebraska, on S. 12th Street, and grandfather had built two homes--two little white homes with a picket fence around them and a long, white shed behind them which contained the outhouses, and underneath the house, of course, was an excavated cellar--all dirt--in which 'they kept the fruit jars and things of that nature. And that's my earliest memories of being in that home with my grandmother and grandfather and mother. I remember very little of my father. I found out later Dad was a great singer and weightlifter and exhibited his prowess by lifting barrels of beer and whiskey in the local barroom. Grandfather was on the police force in Omaha .
Q: That's your mother's father?
A: My mother's father, yes. That is correct.
Q: What was his name?
A: Nicholas--Nicholas Ferzely, and my grandmother's maiden name was Eva Batar, and then she became a Ferzely. And Mother had two brothers--Leo and Joseph. Joseph became a captain of the fire department. He was a short man like myself, about five foot two, five foot three--so short, in fact, they had to cut off the bottom of the ax handle so that when he walked it didn't click on the ground. During World War II he became a fire chief at the Air Force base. I think it was in Lincoln , Nebraska . And he died in retirement. My uncle Leo was more of a marketing/merchandising man initially and drove a truck --a delivery truck--for awhile, and all of us kids would clamber around the back of the truck when he would pull up in front of the house to see his mother, and he would always leave us little Holloway bars to suck on. So, those were great times.
Q: How did that bring you to Dearborn and Ford Motor Company?
A: Well, Mother and Dad had a falling out and--oh, of interest, I was born on November 11, 1918, at about 11 a.m. Mother worked at the Bemis Bag Factory in Omaha and had planned to go to a parade that morning in her pregnant condition, but they decided she had better stay home and have me.
Q: That was right at the time of the Armistice?
A: That was Armistice Day, and Mother received, later on, a $25 Defense or Savings Bond which helped her out of her [financial] predicament. I suspect about that time Mother and Dad were on the outs. So being on the outs, Mother migrated to the Detroit area. I don't know how, but there's a great Lebanese area right here in Dearborn . And we did come down into this area, and I can remember--some of my earliest memories....
Q: She was Lebanese as well as your father?
A: That is right. She was Lebanese and she--[Dad left her with my sister and I]. Mother had roughly seven to nine children of which two of us lived. And here in the Detroit area-- Dearborn area--she met a man, a Lebanese, by the name of Joseph Kelel. And she and he opened up a store-grocery store on Clark and Dix, right across the street from Clark Park . We later had another store further on down near Junction and Dix.
Q: Over near the Cadillac Plant?
A: Just further on down--still on Dix. And the next location was moving to the East Side over near Grand Boulevard right near the Packard Plant. And so, in our career, we had three stores. Mother came to the Detroit area to get away from my real father. And to make the separation [final] she married Joseph. My earliest days were memories of growing up in the store learning how to pack grocery bags and the awful feeling of going down in the cellar where we kept the potatoes and trying to pack the potatoes--getting things like that done.
Q: Was it in the 1920's then?
A: This would have been--yes, all during the 1920's.
Q: Did you--were you aware of the Ford Motor Company at all at that time--in 1920?
A: Yes, and our trips--while I lived in Dearborn and over on the East Side, we'd come back and visit family in this area, and I can remember going down to the Rouge River--must have been in the boat slip down here between the Detroit River and the Ford area--the proving ground area--because I remember going through the fields there, and we gathered wood--other fellows and I--and we built a raft, and we decided to push it out into that area; and, of course, we put our feet on it, and I still remember the ends of it going under the water, and we got off, and that was the last of that. So, I was aware that Ford Motor was there and walking up Miller Road--I believe now, by orientation, toward Michigan-and running my hands along the base of the window which must have been the foundry area which is now torn down...
Q: About 1920?
A: ...and I can remember the bridges across there--to the parking lot. So, yes, I was aware of Ford.
Q: So, we are talking about [the] 1920's?
A: Right up to about 1929--1929/1930. My stepfather, Joseph Kelel--he is basically Mohammedan--decided he was going to take some of the money and go back to Syria , and he left Mother. So, there was mother, myself and my sister in the store. And up to this time, I had gone shopping with my father in the early, early mornings--my stepfather--out to Eastern Market to buy our groceries for the store, and then we would bring it back to get all ready for the store to open at 7:00 . After that time--after Dad left--Mother had to have everything to buy brought to her. She didn't know how to drive, and so shortly after that, she decided to sell the store. She didn't hear from my stepfather. She heard rumblings that he had remarried--being of the Mohammedan faith--in Syria .
Q: She was Catholic?
A: Greek Orthodox. And later on, she would say, we are Episcopalian. I remember going to church every so often--different ones. Mother then sold the store, and we rented a little room right across from where the store was--my sister and I both attending school.
Q: This was on the East Side ?
A: On the East Side right near the Packard plant. And, later on, Mother took severely ill to the point where she was taken to the hospital, and we were told that she wasn't expected to live.
Q: How old were you then?
A: Oh, let's see. I would have been about 12 by then. That was about 1930--1929/1930--and I remember being taken--delivered by the lady in whose house were rooming--my sister and I were taken to a place down on Jefferson Avenue, and we were kept there for about two weeks.
Q: Is this a younger or older sister?
A: Older sister--about four years older. Helen Frances Najjar. And we didn't know what was happening. We were told that Mother was very sick and we would be taken to see her after the operation, and she did recover much to the surprise of everybody. She did come back. She got us out of this care place, and we found another flat.
Q: Those were tough times?
A: Mother went down to work for the Woolworth Company downtown and took care of us. And, of course, we can remember welfare. We can remember the Goodfellows coming by at Christmas time. Well, Mother was an attractive woman, and she had several boyfriends and made ends meet. That takes us up into high school time. About 1932, I started Eastern High School . Mother was still working. We were still on welfare. I remember working after school in the cafeteria cleaning up and doing dishes, and having started off with the college courses, my first semester soon made my homeroom instructor aware that I was not going to make it at a college level, and he suggested that I better take a commercial course which was more of a trade-oriented type of thing--basic mathematics and how to work in a shop, how to write checks, and a little bit of drafting. About that time I found out that drafting came kind of easily, so I saw some of the art work going on, and I went to the art teacher, and next semester I joined the art classes, and the doors just seemed to open after that.
Q: That was at Eastern High School when you were about 14, 15?
A: I would have been about that age--about 14, 15.
Q: But up to this point you had no interest in cars. In fact, your family didn't even have a car.
A: Absolutely not, absolutely not. It was more streetcars than anything else. I had an art school teacher by the name of Frieda Kasting.
Q: Excuse me. Where was Eastern High School ?
A: Grand Boulevard and Mack--the Southeast corner. I think it's torn down now. I haven't been that way recently. And [I] had a very good teacher by the name of Frieda M. Kasting, and she took an interest in me, and she gave me as much as I could absorb in the way of instruction. In fact, she suggested I go down to the Detroit Institute of Arts in my spare time and take a pad and sit there and draw which I did on many, many Saturdays.
Q: About 1932?
A: About that. Let's see, what else?
Q: So, you were going to school during the day. Did you have any parttime work at all at this time?
A: Yes. In between the period of '32 to '36 when I graduated, I did odd jobs--delivering newspapers, working part-time in various grocery stores. One job I had was turning threads on the end of pipes for a plumbing store on Van Dyke just North of Harper. I remember getting 10 cents a pipe end, and you set your pipe in a clamp, and you set the die up, and you spin the die in and out. After a while the job became very boring, and I remember there being a calendar on the wall. There was a very nice girl on the calendar, and there was a poem underneath it-something like "As a rule a man's a fool. When it's hot, he wants it cool. When it's cool, he wants it hot. He's never content with what he's got. Always wishing for what is not." So, I got my 10 cents per pipe end and free passes to the local theater which worked out pretty good.
Q: What happened to your sister?
A: My sister got married about 1933/'34. She had met a young man (John) who was the son of Howard Booth who was a Detroit policeman-moved out on the West Side . Howard Booth was later killed in the line of duty during an electrical storm when he tried to keep a person from driving onto a hot [electrical] wire. He made the mistake of touching the car. Helen was fortunate she married into a good family--not rich, but a very devout family. The Mormon Church--The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ--and she really enjoyed that. She had two children, and she and her husband were missionaries in the United States , of all things, and into Canada also. Helen died in 1961--age 47--of cancer. So, my sister was away at that time, so Mother and I were alone, and, of course, Mother had struck up another friendship with another gentleman, and it was common-law marriage, in effect. The man's name was John Rotondo, who was Italian. So, as a little guy, I had the best of everything. I had Lebanese cooking and Italian cooking which was kind of great. Well, Mother and he shared expenses as they moved to different places around the city as their jobs took them. John Rotondo worked at Packard as an inspector on metal finishing on the old Packard 120's and things of that nature and got mother a job at Packard Motor Car Company, and she went into the sewing department and was so good with her hands she ended up in the experimental trim for sewing--quite proud of her work. When I graduated in 1936, I got a job that summer working on a milk truck delivering milk early in the morning, and later on, Mother talked to the people that were in charge of Food Services at Packard, and I got the job of driving a little tow truck around with all the food in the little trailers. I would drive around the different departments in Packard and sell food.
Q: How did you learn how to drive?
A: It was just a go-and-stop. It was an electrical, battery-powered thing. It was a real simple thing, and I remember driving into Mother's sewing machine area, and the girls would all yell, "Here comes Mary's boy!" and that's when I learned a little bit about being touched from the pretty, down-to-earth women and chided quite a bit. Before I graduated in early 1936, we seniors were visited by several representatives of the automobile companies and different companies. J. L. Hudson Company would come out and give us a talk and tell us about the different career opportunities of the future. In 1936, we were just getting out of the Depression of 1932. I remember the man from Ford passed out 3x5 cards and said, "If you'd like to come out for an interview, fill out these cards, and we'll call you." So, I filled out the card. I graduated, and there was nothing out there, and that's why I took these other jobs, and....
Q: You graduated with just a high school diploma--or in drafting, in particular?
A: I had received honors as an art student. I had been art editor of the high school paper doing the monthly cartoon, and I was also on the staff of the yearbook. Of course, those were wonderful times, and, so, I received this card one day, in 1936, and went out to Ford Rouge plant-fall of 1936. I remember putting all my drawings from high school into a portfolio and then taking the Baker streetcar. The Baker streetcar should go down in the annals of history--an exciting ride, all the way from City Airport all through Hamtramck , all through the Northern part of Detroit and back down on the Eagle Pass. The streetcar would let you off on Eagle Pass East of Miller Road, and you'd have to get off the streetcar, go under the railroad track on Eagle Pass to Miller Road, down Miller Road past Gate U to the employment office.
Q: Which, I guess, it is still there--the offices.
A: Yes, I-drove by there the other day. I went into the employment office and showed them my card, and I said, "Here are my drawings," looked at me quizzically, and I said, "I would like to draw automobiles," and he made some comment like, "We don't hire car drawers and drawers. We have an opening. The cars [drawings] indicate that you have some skills. We have an opening in the apprentice school. You learn how to run tool and die machines. Do you want it?" I took it, and, so, I think, it was probably $22 a week.
Q: In 1936, what kind of hours would that have been?
A: They were daytime hours. That would have been something like 8:00 to 4:00 p.m. roughly, and we spent part of our time over in the trade school going to classes, and the other time was on the actual machines.
Q: Where was the apprentice school?
A: The apprentice school was right at Gate 4--right below the Engineering Department on the South side of Gate 4.
Q: Next to the iron foundry?
A: Yes. Just North of the iron foundry area--that same building. I guess, there were some offices right along Miller Road --Security Office. Then, there was a visitors' aisle, and then came the apprentice school.
Q: For all the apprentices or just the tool and die apprentices?
A: Tool and die apprentices. At least, that's what I remember. I don't remember any other machines, and, as you became proficient at your tool and had good marks, you were moved toward the visitors' aisle. That became the event. I was working on a lathe and made it to the first lathe. I had made some sketches on my lunch time of that particular area the trade school, but I was on the first lathe turning up some screw threads on this lathe, and a hand tapped me on the shoulder (sometime in February, 1937), and I turned around, and it was Mr. [Henry] Ford, and he said, "Do you like this kind of work?" That's all I can remember, and I remember turning and saying as I shut off my machine, "No, sir, I don't...," and he said, "What do you like to do?" And, I said, "I like to draw." And he said, "Do you have any of your drawings?" And I said, "No, sir, not here. I have them at home." And he said, "Would you bring them in?" And I said, "Yes, sir, I will." He turned on his heel. He had a straw hat on. My, God, I remember he had this straw hat on. True or not, I remember the hat! And, I remember there was a staircase going up to the second floor, right across from my machine. There was one on either side, and he went up those stairs two at a time, and about an hour and a half later, some man came down the stairs, went over to my supervisor, talked to him, and then my supervisor came over to me, looked at me, said tomorrow morning I was supposed to report to work. I take that back. It was the next day. I brought in my drawings. I sweated it out all morning, and Mr. Ford did show up again, and he looked at the drawings.
Q: What were the drawings of?
A: The drawings that I had done of--at Eastern High School they were doing some reconstruction work.
Q: Architectural drawings?
A: No. They were art drawings out of a brick window opening looking down on the power shovels in the yard working and the equipment.
Q: That would have appealed to him.
A: And there was another drawing of chemistry bottles done in charcoal and another couple of drawings of automobiles.
Q: Still have those drawings?
A: Yes, of course, I saved them. He touched them! Of course, I do.
So, I did bring the drawings, and he took them upstairs, and that afternoon the fellow came down and talked to my supervisor and said the next morning I was to report upstairs to engineering, and--I retrogress a little bit. When Mr. Ford left me the first time after he said, "Bring in the drawings," and I said, "Yes," I turned back to my machine to run the screw threads again, and I loused the whole thing up. My supervisor came bounding over, "What did he want? What did he want?" and I told him. And, so, I reported to work up in the engineering room upstairs. I don't remember the names of many people up there except Hal Brock. Hal Brock was the man in charge of tractors--tractor transmission--a blackhaired, slicked-back type of fellow--very nice.
Q: Do you remember any other of the apprentices there in the tool and die room?
A: No, I don't. [It] just seems I have a blank. I don't remember any of the names. I remembered my instructor's name for a while. I have forgotten. I was wracking my brain trying to put it down.
Q: I just wondered if any of them were still around. You know, I've heard tales like Stan Drall went to work there at the Rouge sometime before the war, and Bill Innes was on the boards beside him. So, that's the kind of thing I was thinking of and some of the old-timers that we still have around might--Jack McDougall and George Ferris. He just retired. They started in about that same time. What about your supervisor, do you recall his name? The fellow in tool and die?
A: No. The instructor--the apprentice--I do. I was, what, 18 then? Yeah, 18--17--I do remember during that period I went up to the drafting room. I got what's commonly called a big head, and the short time up there, I guess, I didn't do my job up there properly, and I remember being told, "Well, that's it." And, then I was to report in the tool and die room from then on. So, I went out to the tool and die room and started to get a good dose of "My God, what did I do to myself?" and I was on the afternoon shift-- 4 o'clock until midnight . I remember grinding tungsten, carbide tips--getting them all set. I remember an assignment chipping the gray paint off of the foundation of the machinery to get down to base paint and the guys teaching me how to chew tobacco, and fainting from it. I can remember them sending me to the tool crib for a left-hand wrench, a rubber file.
Q: And you fell for it?
A: I fell for all of them one hundred percent. I guess, I spent all of that hot and dirty summer there vowing to myself--1937--if I ever got a chance to get of there, I'd not goof off.
Q: Well, that was a very turbulent time--the labor area. Do you have any recollections of that?
A: I remember when I was still in the apprentice school--early 1937--having my lunch near the machines and talking about the union. I was on the main floor at Gate 4. What are we going to do if there is a fight? I remember words of "fight". I don't remember "strike" per se. That's all I remember of it.
Q: What about the management? Were people walking around, besides Mr. Ford, and making their presence known at that time that you noticed?
A: No. I--that was before my ability to grasp what was going on. Still and all, it was a job--money--engineering. I made it--I made it my life, and then the shock of being moved out.
Q: When you moved upstairs into the engineering department, did you get a raise?
A: I don't remember.
Q: What were you working on up there?
A: I was put on doing some perspective sketches of something. I don't know whether it was on gears. I don't remember clearly. All I know, I was doing some drawing. Evidently I didn't do it well and didn't spend enough time doing it.
Q: So they bumped you back to the shop?
A: And then, one afternoon, the supervisor of the tool and die area- the tool and die areas were little cribs.
Q: The press steel plant?
A: It was in the foundry where they were doing the engine blocks and things of this nature. We would do the cutting tools that would go into the machines to do the grinding.
Q: Since they weren't changing the design--I mean, the 221• cubic inch V-8 engine that was introduced in '32--the next upsizing didn't come 'till the Mercury which was '39 or '38. What would you--why would they be doing any die work? Just replacing worn-out tools?
A: Probably. The tool and die room was just a generic type of thing.
Q: A maintenance facility for the...?
A: I can remember going down on the line, and the one area that fascinated me was the multiple blocks of drills, banks of drills that would go and, simultaneously, drill each side of what I believe was a V-8.
A: Oh, of course, that was more in the engine plant or motor plant, wherever that was. I don’t know where it was then ‘cause they didn’t build the Dearborn Engine until the war. There was a motor building there somewhere. I don't know where though.
A: Just North of Gate 4 there was another area there. That was an assembly [line], if I remember, assembling motors in there. I remember [it was] South of where I was, unless my brain is going dead. They cast out these things. I saw the sand, and I remember there was a line or something in there because I saw them drilling blocks and the blocks coming around.
A: Of course, my familiarity with these things is current, whereas you have a total separation between the foundry and the engine so far as we're concerned. I was trying to sort that out a little bit.
A: That's a good question. Why would they have the grinding bits in the foundry building if they didn't have some grinding operations going on? I mean, cutting operations.
Q: They were just taking off flashings or something?
A: Yeah. So, I was told one afternoon that they were looking for people who could draw out at the design department and did I want to set up an interview. And to this day, I am amazed how the personnel department could have gotten the message from Dearborn to go to the trade school and apprentice school to find people who could draw and work with their hands, and that that system allowed them to go back and find me on afternoon shift out in the shop. I can't believe it. I'd just like remember the names of the people who picked it up. I guess, that's one of the main points of my feeling about Ford and my career. I was limited only by my own abilities because there was always somebody there above me who was on the lookout for talent and who always opened the door. It started then, and it just kept on going all my life.
Q: I wonder if, at this point, we should look over the records back then--Ford styling before this time. The early origins of it.
A: So, as I was driving over here today, and the day was much like the day that I got into my car for my interview in Dearborn .
Q: Oh, you were driving by then?
A: I was driving by then. I had bought a 1933 Ford coupe--a used Ford coupe driven by a little old lady who turned out to be Bell Telephone, green body and black fenders and oil coming out the back end in globs. Anyhow, I drove that car from the Rouge out here, and I remember, it being such a nice day, opening up the windshield. The windshield opened up, and, I think, it must have been a day in early November somewhere around there--1937-- and I went out to the Administration Building which is now called the Triple E Building. It was an engineering administration building. It was near the twin ponds, and it became [later] the Triple E Building. I met Mr. [Eugene T. "Bob"] Gregorie* out in the lobby who looked at my portfolios of drawings and said, "All right, we'll let you know." I remember driving home elated.
* Editor's Note: Bob Gregorie was the design head under Edsel Ford in the 1930's and 1940's. The design department was in the Engineering Laboratory in Dearborn , which was erected in the early 1920's. The architecture, striking for its time, was by Albert Kahn.
Q: You were still living with your mother?
A: I was still living with my mother.
Q: How did you learn how to drive?
A: We bought a car. I got my license without knowing how to drive which was standard for that time, and my common-law father, John Rotondo, took me down to pick up the car and said, "Oh, I'll teach you to drive it home." I don't know how he got there. I think he drove there with his car. He parked it and got into my car, and I remember going around the block--around Woodward Avenue and Davison area--three or four blocks-five or six blocks and banging gears and stuff, and he said, "You're fine." And that was it. So, that was how I learned how to drive. None of this business of clutch. I ruined the gears on it. So, I drove home. In December--no, it was around November--I went to the Design Center-reported for work out there.
Q: What was the salary at that time? Do you remember?
A: It couldn't have been much more, but it was more. But, I do remember, once I got into the Design Center I quickly learned the thing to have was a star badge. A star badge number started at 300, and there were only three-digit numbers, if I remember.
Q: What did that mean?
A: A star badge meant that you got more than $300 a month, and then you were something. You know, that was even a lot of money in 1953.
Q: Okay, this was at the Administration Building . What was the...?
A: Well, we ought to be careful about what we call it because the company’s [main] Administration Building was the one over on  Schaefer Road. [The Engineering Laboratory] says Engine Electrical Engineering which is why it is called "Triple E," and I don't know how far back that goes, [opened in November, 1924] but it's cut in the stone there.
A: I don't know why I am calling it that.
Q: It was the administration office for engineering, I guess. I don't know because they had engineering over here--the test track at that time. They converted those buildings from the hangars and the airplane building [ Oakwood Boulevard ].
A: I always refer to it as the Triple E Building because I thought that was the name given to it later on after we went across the street into the new engineering center , and Mr. Henry Ford did spend a lot of his time there. There was the administration area in the front of the Triple E Building [the mahogany row]. The administrative offices--that's probably how I picked up the terminology.
Q: Let's go back to 1937 then. Did he [Gregorie] offer you the position, and how did you respond to him then?
A: Jumped at the chance, honestly. You asked a question about where was it located in the Triple E Building. The design department occupied the area toward the [Henry Ford] Museum end of the building. I like to refer to it as the South [wing]. I think that's it. And, we had the whole end of it, and as the design department, grew--we grew Northward taking over one wall and another wall and another wall. Emil Zoerlein * was toward the front facing of the lakes. On the back end of the building toward the parking lot--the Southern half--there was a chassis department, and Charlie Pinardi worked over there--a name I remember very well. Blueprint machines were in there. From the administration offices North on the parking lot side were the printing presses.
* Editor's Note: Zoerlein, a favorite of Henry Ford, was chief experimental electrical engineer from 1935 to 1942.
Q: By the parking lot [do] you mean the back side?
A: The back side. The printing presses. Up toward the North corner West--Northwest corner--Mr. [Irving] Bacon* had offices there where he was doing the paintings for the Ford family, and I'd wander up there and see him. And from there it went across to the dining room. And, of course, if nobody else has said it, the floors were always highly polished and to wear leather heeled shoes into that place was taking your life into your hands, and Mr. Ford had the [old time] dances [there] once a week. I never attended the dances. They had the dances in between the electrical, design and chassis departments in that open area. I don't know what kind.** We never went. Rachel McDonald did. She was the [Ford] librarian who I struck up a very nice friendship with. She was a very wonderful woman. I remember dancing with her once someplace. I don't know if it was somebody's wedding or whether it was at one of these, but very vaguely.
Editor's Notes: * Bacon was Henry Ford I's personal painter/photographer.
** Henry Ford I had weekly old fashioned dance sessions in Triple E and later(after 1938) in Lovett Hall.
Q: So this was Fall of 1937? [September, 1937] What was your first assignment?
A: Answering the telephone.
Q: You were in an apprentice...?
A: Yes. I have it written down. I went back and checked my records. About five trainees that were pulled from the Rouge area, some were from the trade schools, and I don't know where the others were from. I had them listed here.
Well, we've got--I don't know if it is here in this outline. I see Bud Adams.
A: Bud Adams, Frank Francis, Benny Barbera, Frank Beyer.
Q: Frank Beyer, Emmet O'Rear.
A: I think Francis was brought in as a clerk. Yeah, Frank was an office secretary, a clerk.
Q: Ross Cousins, Tucker Madawick, Duncan McRae?
A: Yeah, that's right-- Duncan . Tucker Madawick, Duncan McRae and Ross
Cousins came in later. They were there about 1939. Frank Francis was a clerk, and the rest of us were trainees. We had the potential to become designers. And, in the design department there they have the disciplines of clay modeling, drafting, designing, styling as it was called. My first job was answering the phone and having a sketch pad and being told to draw instrument panel control knobs for John Walter. I soon learned to answer the phone badly, and that got me off the job of that real quickly.
Q: They didn't have a secretary?
A: They didn't have a secretary at that time. Frank Francis then came in.
Q: They didn't have very many female secretaries at all in the company,
A: They had a secretarial pool. In fact, Bud Adams' wife worked in the secretarial pool in 1941. I introduced the two of them, and they got married, and we live next door to one another right now. Her daughter is getting married a couple of Sundays from now here.
Q: So, your first styling job was on instrument panel knobs. It would have been at that time, what, 1939 or '40?
A: I would say the very end of 1939 and '40. When I walked into a place, the 1938 models were pretty much....
Q: They would have been introduced at that point. They would have been introduced in October of '37, presumably.
A: The '39's would have been a little late.
Q: I would think. Although these early pictures look like 1939's. Of course, they'd be using production parts to work with. Let me ask just one more question about the knobs because I know that those '39 knobs, at least on the Mercury, were made of the soybean plastic. Did you have anything to do with that aspect of it, or were you just concerned with appearance?
A: Not [solely] appearance. It was a control knob, could have been die-cast or anything at all.
Q: Those cars had what we call today, I guess, an Art Deco styling. Were you at all conscious of that kind of thing? Where did you get your ideas from of those knobs because I recall that the knob had a sort of a round shape but with concentric circles on it.
A: Concentric circles [molded] on it, and then they had a shaft that pinned down and went forward into the dash.
Q: Were you consciously following a style of trend books or anything?
A: No, not at that time. It was just a natural gift that people who draw have. They like to make things "look nice," making form follow function, which is pretty good. You had to have a [functional] grip on the back so the person can grab the handle, and then you were told well, we've got a deluxe (model), we've got a super-deluxe (model), say on the Ford. And, one has got to look a little bit different from the other and look a little bit better. We are going to identify the knobs by doing a "hot stamp." And, on the Ford [grey knob] we might have a red hot "stamp" whereas on the other car a red "hot stamp" on a beige knob. We might use a dark colored knob on a luxury deluxe job with a gold "hot stamp." And, it should look interesting.
Q: By stamping you mean it would say "lights" or "choke" or whatever?
A: But the identification would be "hot stamped" into the end of the knob. And, so what you would have to do, you were told, in effect, this would be made into a two or three piece mould. You had to have a [manufacturing] feeling for it--and having come from the trade school, you had a feeling for it, you knew what could be done on the lathe, you know a little bit about casting material and what could be "pulled" and what could go where--you know what flash was--where the two parts of a mould come together, and when an object falls out, it [flash] has to be trimmed--and you don't want to trim across the design lines--so these are things you really knew from the short time you had in apprentice and trade school, so all you had to do is make it look acceptable. And, all that you were trying to appeal to at that time was your immediate supervisor, and on the instrument panels, it happened to be Johnny Walter, and answered to E.T. Gregorie, and so if those two liked it--I don't know who they showed it to higher up, they certainly wouldn't be looking at a little knob, they were looking at the overall picture. So, those were kinds of things we would do. And, we would also draw the little spaces on the bands of the banjo steering wheels. That was Bud Adams' first J b--to design the bands on the banjo steering wheels, the wires coming down to the center and back and held together by these clips. And, Bud's first job was to draw those up. He just kept drawing those. But, there was nobody there that said, "This is the way you make a drawing" at the time I went in. This was the way you drew a perspective--you just drew-either you can or you can't draw well. Nobody would say, "I want to learn to draw like he draws."
Q: Do you have [any] of those drawings from those early years?
A: I have some of them--some from a '41 instrument panel. At that time, on the 1941 Ford, if you remember, it really went plastic.
Q: The 1940 Mercury?
A: The '40 Mercury was really--a real trend setter. The steering column blended into the [instrumentation] cluster. There was a lot of plastic on that--plastic in the steering wheel and on the Ford itself.
Q: Driving restorers nuts ever since because....
A: I remember doing some of the details drawing on those.
Q: We mentioned this before--we should look a little in retrospect at Ford and how far it developed, and maybe you can start with some of your feelings about Ford styling over the years--how it evolved up to this point.
A: Well, I jotted down some things about what was in the design department when I walked in, and what did I learn about it, and I remember when I walked in--I realized that this was an elite place to be. There must have been about 40 people at that time--there were some shop people from the aircraft building. Jimmie Lynch was there, who had been a master at doing propellers and balancing them, he was in charge of the metal shop. Dick Beniecki was in charge of the clay modeling, and Bill Leverenz was there--these two gentlemen had worked on the Fisher Theater in the plaster and sculpturing of all the decor that went into the Fisher Theater and some of the main theaters around town. Dick Beniecki was a pipe-chomping guy in charge of the clay modeling, and these men were drawn from the disciplines of sculpture, commercial type of plaster men that had done....
Q: Some of them had worked in the aircraft division.
A: That was metal shop--we had a metal shop, wood shop--they were taken from the pattern shop where they had been doing wood bodies and doing forms for the tools. They had taken people from the Ford Aircraft area-guys that were truly talented with their hands. Then, in the drafting area--I don't know if Martin Regitko had arrived or not--but there was a drafting area, with the layout tables, for doing the body drafting--full scale, and also the small scale drawings. Eddie Martin [Edward A. Martin] was over there, who was a "Man Friday" to E.T. Gregorie for awhile. Well, to go back, Ed Martin was working out in that drafting room area, across from where Emil Zoerlein was--visualize the end of the Triple E Building as being like a U shape--that bottom end was the design department, Zoerlein was here. [He is making a sketch of the EEE Building and how it grew.] Yes--Zoerlein was here--the Design Department went across this way--back in here was [ Eugene ] Farkas' engine area, and up this way was drafting--and then there is a big gate out toward the back, this way, and the staircase was in here, if I remember right. Printing presses were here, if I remember right--Irving Bacon was up here, they were doing a Ford paper, I forget what the name of it was*,
* Editor's Note: Ford News, an employee and dealer newsletter, published from 1920 to 1943 and I am not sure whether the secretarial pool was here or not at the time I was there--but this was all. open [space], beautiful cars parked around in here--engineers had drafting boards in here. Well, Eddie Martin and E.T. Gregorie were in this area in the drafting room, circa 1932, '33, roughly, and at that time Ford was having its bodies done by Briggs and Murray--Briggs, I remember, mainly, and, in this building, Joseph P. Galamb's name was quite prominent--and Mr. Edsel Ford had a desire to do special cars for the family, and whoever was in charge of E.T. Gregorie, got Gregorie to do some sketches--E.T. Gregorie was a former naval architect, he designed boats.
Anyhow, Mr. Edsel Ford became knowledgeable that in this [engineering] group was a fellow that could draw automobiles and had taste. E.T. was not a modest guy, he had already told Martin, "When I get a chance I want to set up something--there is a chance in this company for design." And, at this time over at General Motors they had started....
Q: Oh, they had started in 1927....
A: And, so E.T. was aware of this and....
Q: He was just a body designer?
A: He was a detailer--working on special jobs and things of this nature, and I don't know who decided, probably Edsel Ford, "I want to set up a Design Department"--so, in 193.5, E.T. Gregorie took charge--I don't know who he answered to, if it was Joe Galamb or Pete Martin, or who it was--and set up a department. He recruited Ed Martin, of course, who was on the board next to him and was a good detail man and had ability to look the big picture, how to put things together, and personable. Later, Ed had a falling out, I think it was in 1951 or '52, with--between George Walker --there were a lot of goings one, and he was let go, and [was] completely crushed. And, to Ed's credit, he went out to the West Coast, got a job with Northrup, went to night school, studied aeronautical engineering, and worked his way up into some of the heat seeking missile jobs and retired, maybe 10-15 years ago, from Northrup, and is still in retirement in Redondo Beach. So, within the department--and Farkas' place was back in here--the engineering group went up that way-electrical was here [pointing to map]--Zoerlein & Javonovich were here. And, in our department we had a drafting room, we had the clay modeling bridges here, we had designers lined up across here--right at the end. In fact, in the summertime, we'd go out here and play baseball in the parking lot areas, and you could always look out in the wintertime and see the tunnel that went from the Triple E Building over to the A frame [building]--there was an underground tunnel, and the tunnel would let up heat, and it would melt the snow, and you could see that. And, in the summertime, they would also bring out the herds of sheep to graze out there. And, in the early morning, about 9:00 o'clock --I think it was each morning before 1941--Henry Ford I had music piped in from the village. It was choir music, and you could hear it for 15 minutes. You could stay at your board and meditate, you could work quietly, or go out the door, walk out to Oakwood Boulevard , and have a smoke. And that was very nice. And, I sat at my board and drew--I wasn't smoking at that time. So, that was the Design Department. They had the shop facilities, they had the drafting facilities, they had the clay-modeling facilities, and they had the designer area. In the designer area they had taken in Eddie Martin, Johnny Walter, a self-taught designer, who was in charge of instrument panels. Walter Kruke who had a knack for fabrics--he liked the materials. Willys P. Wagner was a trained architect, and he did all the bumpers, tail lamps, interchangeability type of things. Bruno Kolt--I don't know much about him, but he was a good detail, perspective man. That was the complement of the supervision--the guys that made things run. I remember being impressed by the full-size clay models, the bridges--Bill Wagner had designed the bridges at the request of E.T. Gregorie for a system to measure. Up to that time, even quite currently, General Motors had always used surface plates with right-angle units off the surface plate, with templates attached to them, so that [demonstrates]--the surface plate, like this, use right angle things with the templates, and then "drag" those [templates] or put them into the clay model to try to find out where points were--or dimensions were on the model. Where with the Ford system--it allowed you a grid, being able to pick out any point, any coordinate in space, any spot on the vehicle-you could measure it from the top, from the side, and slide-it fore and aft. So, it was quite a disciplined technique. And, you could record from that by reading off these pointers onto a graph sheet.
Q: And Wagner designed that for Gregorie?
A: Yes, Willys P. Wagner, and he is still alive today in Tiburon , California . Wagner was much underestimated. He was a combination of engineer and had a lot to draw on from each of these men--not only their talents, but their attitudes towards life and toward the bosses. I remember one time P.E. Martin came through, and Jimmie Lynch didn't have his badge on, and designer. So, a young trainee going in there at that time Martin asked him for his badge, and he said, "It's here in my pocket," and P.E. Martin said, "Give it to me." So, Jimmie Lynch handed P.E. Martin the badge. P.E. Martin put it in his pocket and went away with it. Jimmie didn't get his badge for two weeks, and to get in through the [employees' entry] gate you had to have a written slip--but Jimmie took that very calmly--this is what I mean by the attitude of people. Johnny Walter had a tendency to blow up and break pencils. Walter Kruke would go off to the Dearborn Inn--I don't know if they were serving liquor at the time--and come back slightly happy; Bruno Kolt would sit and mumble to himself.
Q: One thing you mentioned already--G.M. had their "Art and Colour Department," you referred to?
Q: Were you aware at that time what the other companies were doing?
A: Curtice--Harlow Curtice--because Harley Earl had built cars for the show people out in California and got a lot of publicity [Alfred Sloan].
Q: Well, Curtice was Buick General Manager in the mid-1930's and then went on to be a president of G.M.
A: I'll go back and check the records--I have a book on General Motors which I'll get you--got a little bit of history and pictures of what they had, and--also a book on Ford, so you can compare the two.
Q: I think what he is getting at is that somehow or another the Model A Ford, as an example, had a lasting satisfactory styling or design--it may not have been perceived so at the time, but somehow--even today, it looks much better, and for some reason in the collector car market, a Model A much more treasured than, let's say, a Model T. And, certainly an explanation is that it is the pleasantly perceived styling--superior somehow or other to the--as we see it today in retrospect through the years--to the Chevrolet and Plymouth --or the Essex . Do you have an accounting for that? How did the design on those bodies, and the radiator grille, and--how it was put together? How did it come out so perfectly, in that respect?
A: That's a good question--I don't know. That was before my time. Somebody might know who had been a part of that program....
Q: I know some of those were done on the outside, and at some point the design department was developed within Ford....
A: The 1935 model was the last model done purely by Briggs, and whether the 1936 front end modification was done at Ford, I don't know.
Q: From an appearance point of view, or popularity point of view, for some reason, the '36 is the treasured car....
A: That's-right, especially if it has the Cord adapters on it--somebody had taken the look of Cord--those horizontal louvers and put them right over the '36 front end.
Q: Yeah, you don't see those any more.
A: When I walked in there, the Lincoln Zephyr was still not done--at the Design Department they were just beginning to--just starting to do [the design] things. Like the little flare-out over the bottom of the door to cover the running board--that was one of the first things that was started. I remember one of my second or first jobs was to do the Lincoln Zephyr name plate on the back of the Lincoln Zephyr. I have my original drawings, and I have the original engineering drawings--I have those two pieces of paper.
Q: I have a feeling that the lead time must have been a great deal shorter than it is now. Where have we gone wrong? Why does it take so much longer?
A: I am not sure that I have been a good student of volume. I think we had less proliferation of models, and we weren't building as many cars then.
Q: That's true--volume was far less.
A: I can remember back then, Bill Wagner sitting at the back of one of the Ford products--it was the first Mercury--there was like a tin canlike thing for a taillight mounted on the side of the fender, and he would model that taillight himself, and then take it very carefully from the right fender and lead it over to the left fender so it would work. And, that is true for the headlamp doors which were built into the fender--you take that one thing and move it--anything that could be moved from the right hand to the left hand was done. And, that was because they only needed one tool. Later on, obviously, they made six tools of an object to meet the volume, so, therefore, all you needed was a set of any kind, so you could make each set different. Back there, we had to make things one of a kind. So, that partly answers the question on the where-did-wego-wrong bit. It just blossomed and exploded. I can't help but make a little bit of comparison: before the war years, let's say, the volumes were kind of low on such cars as the Lincoln Zephyr and the Lincoln Continental. Model A's, the '36 Ford--and they were sort of one of a kind, and General Motors, if you go back and check the records, were doing four one-of -a-kinds. After the war--'47, '48, '49--then things started exploding, certainly by the Fifties. The guys would come back from the [Armed] Services, everybody wanted a car, we'd have great volume at a cut cost--maintain cost--and get out to the marketplace. So, they had to build them for volume. That had a lot to do, too, with--if you look at the cross section of a pre-war car--let's say, through the hood-fender, catwalk and the body went this way, and you had running boards like this. Post-war type of cars was to have the fenders come up this way--like this--and the body came up this way. If I took a measuring stick and went from here to here, from here to here, there was less. metal used--basically no returns. Now, as cars started to get wider, and shortly after that--I'd say by 1950's--you were starting to lose that again because the cars were getting wider and wider. So, I would say this would be a more economical way of using sheet metal, too--this metal was a lot thicker back then, and you could get some pretty good draws.
That part of it, and you could draw it further, in effect, without tearing. And over here, in order to get compound surfaces you had to make your surfaces pretty clean across the chord line to get that metal to stretch without tearing--that has gotten to be a real art with the introduction of new steels, with the alloys stretching. So, where we went wrong--maybe it got to be more like cookie cutters--where before it had, a lot of chance to wander....
Q: Well, I was thinking in terms of the time when you went there in 1937 and working on a Lincoln Zephyr--and the last Lincoln Zephyr was the 1942--so, you probably worked on a 1939 or '40, I would guess.
A: Doing details of the thing.
Q: Whereas our [current] lead time is so much longer. I don't know t it is--60 months?
A: That would be toolings. The other thing is that cars were built at the Rouge plant--as we got stronger and better, then came Mitten [NUJ.] and in California and all the other places. So, it took a longer time to do things.
Q: It was probably simpler in those days.
A: I'd say your statement there is a good one. In this period, there were two noteworthy cars that I had worked on--one was an adventure, which was the "Boyer" plastic car, and part way through that job there was political upheaval, and it was taken away from the Design Department. I don't know who finished it. But, we never did finish the vehicle. It started as a design exercise, and we weren't supposed to do it, but we did it....
Q: Can you explain--can you identify [Robert] Boyer?
A: Bob Boyer--he was in charge of the exploration on soy beans converting to plastic, and we had soy bean ice cream in the cafeteria, which was pretty good.
Q: I have written probably as much as anybody on that development, and it was in an article in Special Interest Autos several years ago. Joe Cruppi worked on that [project]--well, he was an apprentice, we had a somewhat similar background--for years his father had an Italian grocery store in East Dearborn, and then, I guess, he asked one of his customers for a job for his son, and the guy grabbed a grocery bag and wrote something on it. "Take this down to Gate 4," and Joe was about 16, and started as an apprentice there in the chemical department. And, pretty soon Mr. Ford came and got all those chemical apprentices to work the soy beans--but that's another story.
[Looking at a picture of a chassis model in the Design Department]
A: This is a chassis. Can you see it? And, Gregorie had an idea about it--the tubular structure went up and over like a cross, and Gregorie's idea was to do it out of bent tubing. You can buy tubes of any diameter. He wanted to put the drive-shaft down through the main structure in here, and the Design Center did a little engine, built the springs on this. A fellow by the name of Johnny Hay, who was a tin-can, metal guy, and did a great job--he built the model. And, I had the job of drawing this-detailing and doing some of the sketches. So, that was one job that I had.
I did the design work on the [original] Continental coupe--taking it from the cabriolet roof to the rear fender and the deck back in here and the spare tire area. And, that's what it is. And this, you can see, is the tubular--that was a full-size layout showing it.
Q: They were serious about that plastic car then.
Q: You said there was a political problem--you know about the details?
A: I think there must have been a blow-up between E.T. Gregorie, who was a designer's designer, and who wanted it to look good, and when he saw this thing starting to look like....
Q: It was grotesque.
A: ...like a potato--he wanted no part of it. He wanted to say, "Either I do it, and take it all, or take it away." I surmise that is what happened.
Q: What would have been the other department--engineering?
A: Engineering may have been asked to help out with it.
Q: Boyer, I think, was doing it--now this is second-hand on my part-- but, as I recall, what Cruppi said, Mr. Ford--the older Henry Ford--he read a book called The Soy Bean which--and he got the idea that he could do all these things and put these people to work on it, and they had done various things, and whether Boyer got the idea--I have forgotten, but-they got the idea of building this body out of the soy bean plastic, which they did--but the car wasn't shown off until August, 1941.
Q: The State Fair.
A: Yeah, but it was never completed, the car was never completed. The war came then rather hurriedly, and I was always convinced that the darned thing was still around here someplace, in the basement or something, and I still would not be surprised--because I tracked it as being around later on in the war--this was only 10 years ago. I just had an idea it might still be around someplace--here in the [Henry Ford] Museum or in the basement down there--God knows! But Boyer--I got the impression that it was pretty much Boyer's project--he was somewhat of a promoter, and he was getting--he would have had Henry Ford's backing--the elder Henry Ford's backing. Whereas Gregorie, I guess, was more a protege of Edsel. So, if you really may be getting into the supposed conflict between the old man and his son, I don't know. Did you ever see any of that? Do you remember any gossip about it?
A: No--not really. I had an idea of the constant struggle between Edsel and E.T. Gregorie against the rivals and the [Charles] Sorensens.
Q: Was Edsel in the Design Department, talking to Mr. Gregorie, or...?
A: Quite often--well, I remember....
Q: He is the mystery man, you see, of Ford Motor Company.
A: Edsel, yes. I remember him being brought over to my drawing board one day. I was doing a rendering--still got it at home--of a 1939 Lincoln Zephyr cabriolet, and E.T. [Gregorie] brought Mr. Ford over and said, "John, show Mr. Ford what we are going to do here," and I remember showing him something on the drawing, and Ford said, "That's very nice, I like that--why don't you do that," and walked away. I found the drawing later on--I don't know, 2-3 years later--saved it. But, I knew nothing of that struggle just when they came into the Design Department. I would stand back and watch and Sorensen say something about raising a moulding 1/16th of an inch--1/16th! I can't see it on the model! Mr. [Henry] Ford would come in, and I was tapped again on the shoulder one day when I was scraping away on a clay model, and turned around, and thought--before I opened my mouth, he said, "You like what you are doing?" [laughter]
Q: You think he knew who you were?
A: No--about four times after that--several times after that--he met me in the Design Department, no sign of recognition at all. It was always the same thing, and I was able to say, "Yes, sir, I love that job."
I was down in Photographic one day to pick up some pictures, and in walked Henry Ford. I was trying to remember the name of the product-economy something. Mr. Ford had a half of a log in his hand, about 18 inches long and about six inches wide at the flat point, and he handed it to the photographer, says, "Look at that. That little boy signed his name on that log for me, and I gave him my signature. Would you take a picture of this so I can send him a copy of his signature on the log? And, he walked out, and the photographer--so, evidently he had just come back from Georgia and had met somebody down there and had exchanged signatures.
Q: Where was Photographic then? The basement of Triple E?
A: It was then the administrative area--the Triple E--yeah, it had to be in the basement because I know they had the Johannson Gage Blocks still down there in the basement. So, I think it was. The other car, of course, that I worked on was the Continental which everybody likes to be associated with. And, I remember the early sketches which I didn't do, but I remember working on the--the special cabriolet.
Q: For Edsel to take down to Hobe Sound.
A: And, I have some of the original drawings on those that Eddie Martin made, and we did the interchangeability of the panels--showing how we could take Lincoln Zephyr and trim it, and stretch it, and cut off the bottom of the door, because E.T. Gregorie knew that he could never get the tooling through the company, so he had to build a special car and hope that he could do it in such a way that someday it could become a production version, and then he, E.T. Gregorie could have one. So, he worked this plan out, and Bud Adams was assigned to do the clay model (and there are pictures of it in Automobile Quarterly), and I was given the assignment to work with Eddie Martin--and also to show how the convertible top could go down. Why me? I don't know. But, I did a fullsize, blackboard drawing. So, I took the Lincoln Zephyr mechanisms as a start, looked at it, started out and then laid out cardboard patterns and stapled them to the wall, and I took a string outline to show the outline of the roof, and then we were able to show in a quick way--you could do that. So, E.T. Gregorie brought in Edsel Ford, showed him the sketches.
don't know how well the sketches were done at the time, and who made them. The side-view drawings, how the pieces could be made--the little 1/10-size clay model and then the full-size layout that I had made with the top going down, and it got the go-ahead to go on.
Q: And that's--supposedly Edsel saw a car in Europe and wanted one likeit. Do you know any of that?
A: There are reminiscences by Eddie Martin. When Eddie was told he was going to leave the company, he chatted with me. I said, "Ed, why don't you some day do me a favor. Think back and write down what your feelings were about the Continental. Someday somebody will want to know about it," so he wrote me a four-page letter. I have it in his original writing. I've got reproductions of it, and he writes of the earliest time. Do you have a copy of it?
Q: I don't think I do.
A: Sorry I didn't bring a copy, but in this I had Jimmy Quinlan call Eddie Martin down in California and have Eddie reminisce on the phone to Jimmy Quinlan, and you see Eddie Martin's handwriting on the card to Jimmy (how lovely he writes). And, that's the first known reminisce when he talked about Henry Ford, Edsel Ford and Bennett. And, then I had given this--Eddie's impression, 1950, of the history of the Continental, and then Eddie went on to surmise a future. But, the story that's in here-for instance, he (E.T. Gregorie) never went up to Edsel Ford with a new idea without first doing a lot of groundwork, which either consisted of a well-timed hint here and there, and then sketches, and then, perhaps, a clay model in 1/10 scale, which Edsel Ford would "accidentally" run into-and then, finally, the appraisal of what was being done.
Q: Little subtle touches--interesting.
A: So, Mr. Ford had returned many times from Europe , having little cars shipped over--cars that he thought were cute. I remember that they were delivered to the Design Department.
Q: This was Edsel?
A: Yes, Edsel--Edsel Ford. And, Edsel Ford would come in, sit down and talk for an hour at a time with E.T. Gregorie, and, of course, Eddie Martin, and E.T. Gregorie would come out, shaking his head, saying, "We can do better than that--he is always talking about European cars," and that's where the name Continental came from--while he was out on the Continent--the Continental. And, so, as Eddie records it, that's how it got it's name. But, E.T. Gregorie had always liked the little cars that Mr. Ford brought back, and he was always talking about the little cars.
So, that was the beginning of the Continental, and later on when Mr. Ford received it--well, we have got it at the Design Center --the one of a kind. I don't know where E.T. had it built--whether it was done at the Lincoln plant, or what shop it was done at, but it was brought over [to styling]. And, E.T. had picked the color. It was a yellow-ochre. In fact, we all looked at it, and somebody said, "It's shit brindle." It was awful! And, engineering told him the bad news. The job was cracking right at the cowl--really cracking! "What are we going to do about it?" So, E.T. suggested they put some I-beams, cross shaped--remember, they put the engine in--they stretched out that long hood so there appeared tosome room between the cowl and the back of the engine. And, they put this X-member in there, welded it back in, and they painted it a steel-gray color, and, I believe, the trim was changed. And, then it was shown to Edsel, and he loved it. He thought it was magnificent, and, as I understood it, he had it shipped to Florida . Eddie reminisced that he took it some other place, but I remember it going to Florida .
Q: I always heard it was going to Hobe Sound. Hobe Sound is in Florida --above Palm Beach .
A: I am not familiar with it. And then he came back--and the good news raced around the Design Department--Mr. Ford really loves this car, we are going to see now. Get engineers over here, and we'll see if we can make these--what it'll take to make--and the only real hand building that had to be done was on the A:-pillar. They put that up with some angleiron, and they had to hand lead it in and get the header across there. It was hell to pay on the production line.
Q: They only made one of the 1939's then? Because there was a rumor
that there were a couple more made subsequently--such as for Henry and Benson--Henry II.
A: If there were, I was not aware of it.
Q: Speaking of which, did you ever encounter any of the Ford children in the shop in those early years? Benson and Henry would have been teenagers.
A: I think I can remember Bill.
Q: Of course, he didn't come along [at FMC] until after the war.
A: I remember being told that they were walking through the Triple E building, and I only remember seeing them at a distance. I don't know if was Bill or Benson. I am pretty sure it wasn't Henry II. And, they headed around the drafting boards of engineers. I don't remember them coming through the Design Department.
Q: Well, we talked about some of Najjar's projects. I guess that brings it up to some of the war work, I think.
Q: So, maybe we should cut it out here and pick it up with World War II and some of the design war work a little bit later.
Q: Yes, I'd like to explore John's thoughts about the styling and the designs a little bit more. Also, immediate pre-war cars or the late Thirties, which seemed to be, in many ways, a high point of fad design.
This is Douglas Bakken, November 10, 1981 . We are continuing the the second interview with John Najjar who retired from the Ford Motor Company, from the Design Department. The first interview had sort of taken John's life and his family--giving an overview on his early life and took design work at the Ford Motor Company up into the 1930's. One of the things that we had talked about the last time was the philosophy of design and how that has changed over the years with the Ford Motor Company. On his own, John went home and thought about this, and with the help of some documents--which we can number and identify--he has tried to sketch this out, and we are going to talk about it now, and, in a way, try, as much as we can, to pin down the styling or the design philosophy of the company and how it changed over the years, how it reacted to product changes, how it reacted to the war, and how it reacted to different people, and that's what we want to talk about today.
Q: Well, John, I wonder if we can start out and go through this, or you want to issue some kind of an opening statement?
A: No. Basically, I think it's better if we just stumble into it. I don't know if we are going to be as pure as saying "design philosophy of Ford Motor Company"--we may have to ramble a bit here. I've created these 10 or 15 sheets of paper which give an overview or a cursory look automotive design from about the 1920's to the present and a little push into the future.
Q: Okay. Why don't we just kind of call this Exhibit A, then, and then if there is any kind of shape, we can identify--we can.... Absolutely!
A: That's fine. ...the first sheet, and it has on it 1920, '30, '40, and '50, and after each of those 10 year periods are a side view of an automobile and a front view, and, of course, in the 1920's the Model T and its late derivatives, as far as Ford Motor was concerned, were the predominant automobile. I just put these down to refresh our memory. In the 1930's, it showed a little softer look at the vehicles. Let me jump around--this first page shows the 1920's, 1930's, 1940's and 1950's. The next page pulls it up into the '50 pluses. I should have made that '55 plus, because in '55 plus there was a significant change in design philosophy, and we'll get back to that. And, the page goes on to 1960, 1970--into the 1980's, and these are just little vignette pictures. Now, we come down to the detailed shots. On these it describes the 1920's very briefly in one-line statements. The 1920's were basically straight-line elements on the vehicles, and very few compound surfaces, and this was a part of the profession at the time--no big tools were being made to press out the sharp forms; therefore, the straight-line elements were wrapped, flat pieces of metal. The metal, of course, was thick enough so it didn't have to be stretched to take a set. As cars went on--as we will see as we go one--they used thinner and thinner metal to reduce the weight, and that metal had to be formed or curved--bowed, to give it its strength so it wouldn't "oil-can," so to speak.
Q: When we talk about metals, what was the predominant metal?
A: As far as I know, for myself, it was steel. And then, of course, casting. Ford Motor Company, throughout the years, and right up to current time, has been known for good quality of its metal in its vehicles--not necessarily sheet metal, but in the forgings in the under part where they use the brake-arms and things of that nature--they'd go to forging, whereas our competitors would use stamped steel parts, and Ford got quite a good reputation that way. The other design element that you note in this side view is that the roof profile is higher in the back than it is in the front, and this will continue on for a few years. The reasons for that, partly, was that the car, the vehicle, had wheels. It had axles on top of that, and it had a straight frame, and on top of the straight frame sat a rather high seat. Whereas the little engine was way out in front, and it was just natural to bring the windshield down. The other thing is that the engine is located just aft the front axle, in profile view, and then the radiator was a vertical line again--again this very boxy, straight-line element. And, the rear passengers on the sedan types of vehicles sat directly over the rear axle, projecting the roof up even higher. Now, looking at this basic silhouette or basic shape in front view, the vehicle was just wide enough to accommodate two passengers, and the doors came down to that frame, and then stuck on the outside of that were the front and rear fenders. There was no fixed side windows, and the spare tire was exposed. And, the headlamps and taillamps were stuck onto separate elements. Now, to me, those are design principles. They were not necessarily designed by a designer per se, but they grew.
Q: The headlamps and taillamps, they were separate because they were independent--they were hooked into the automobile?
A: That's right. They were formerly on the cowl, in further times, and these were things that you could buy separately and have them shipped in. Then we are getting to the 1930's, and the surfaces have become rounder. Instead of sharp corners, those corners turn into round--into radii, and then the use of compound surfaces increases. It's in the fenders, and into the roof, and into the hood. So, the roof profile is higher in the rear, and now what's happened is again the differential is directly underneath the rear seat passenger, and he has to get on top of that, and he is basically high. So, I asked one of my mentors at Ford when I was a young man--the clay-modeling guy by the name of Richard Benieke--I says, "Hey Dick, how come on our cars the roof is always higher in the back?" He says, "Well, that's real simple John." I said, "Why is that?" He said, "So the people in the back can look over the shoulders of the people in the front," and I don't know if that was true or not, but sounds good--all the way up in the--you know. In the 1930's the engine started to move forward. The frame started to lower a little bit between the front and rear axle. There was a desire to get the center of gravity down on the vehicle, and they were doing it a couple of ways--one was lowering the passengers, and when they lowered the passengers slightly, they had to shove the engine forward to start making room for the front feet of the passengers, and then they started to make the vehicle slightly wider, and you could squeeze in three people. But, they still came back, and they still applied the fenders into the thing. Now, they have completely enclosed the vehicle, and the spare tires were still mounted externally, and, as I have indicated here, overall height was reduced, and the length was increased somewhat. And, into the 1940's, surfaces became fully compound now, straight-line elements were becoming a thing of the past. The roof profile started to come down so it was starting to be more of a straight line. It still didn't have that racy feeling where the roof profile trails off toward the back. The wheel opening--around the wheel openings, instead of flying, fenders were now starting to become closed in, so you couldn't see all the running gear, and it also had a good purpose of covering up the mud from flying up. But, in this period the frame again was lowered between the front and rear axle, and the engine was moved further forward, making more room for the passengers to move forward, and, as a result of this, the rear seat passengers' seat could drop, which brought the roof down with it. And, now the body width is increased a little bit more, and there is ample room for three passengers. So, in this area, the windshield was angled aft with a purpose and V-ed in plain view--one was to reduce the inside reflections that you receive. When you were wearing a white shirt in the cars previous to this era, you could see your white shirt reflected in the windshield of the vehicle. It was hard to see through it. Two--and when they are starting to stamp these steel roofs now, and they are stretched all the way from the back of the car to the front, angling the windshield back at the top reduced the blank size of the sheet metal that they had to use to hit that area. So, that was another purpose. And, now the running boards are starting to be covered, or gradually reduced in width as the body got wider. In the beginning 1950's, again, we are already into fully compound surface, and the fenders now, and the body, become one. The body moves outboard to the full width, and now the fenders connected with the front door and the rear quarter panel or rear fenders connected with the rear door. So, in plain view the vehicle became one line. One-piece, curved windshields and backlights were introduced at this time in order to make the vehicle look wider and minimize the number of pieces that had to be installed. You can imagine, when you had to have the windshield in two separate pieces with a divider bar in the center, it was easier to put in the one piece. So, it became just more economical as well as looking better to do it that way. In this period, again the engine--I don't know if it was definitely moved forward any further over the front axle, but very plain it was dropped further, allowing the passengers to sink a little bit lower, bring the roof down, and now, for the first time, in the 1950's you could have the roof go from the front seat driver toward the back in any fashion that you wanted. You could have a drop-off, as smooth as you want, or you could close-couple the rear passengers to make a nice little sedan. Let's see now--the door sills now--the running boards are now gone, and you just have the scuff plates, about 2 to 3 inches wider door sills, and the headlamps and taillamps are fully integrated into the body surfaces. Again, a cost-saving factor--punch a hole in the fenders and just plunk in the light--don't have to mount them separately. Now, the '50-pluses--the '55-plus, specifically--from 1955 to, let's say, 1958 or '59. The designers--I don't know where it started--whether it started in fashion or in the automotive industry or in the aircraft industry or the introduction of a rocketry program starting up, but automobile designers started to figure that, well, fins and a lot of flying surfaces, and lines that float any place on the car was the thing to do. I think that was the period where one could say they were not automobile designers, but they were truly stylists--putting shapes on things that not always had perfect function. And, so I just put down here "extravagantly
fashioned body contours abounded, we experienced full exploration of wrap windshield." Windshields wrapped all the way around to the side. They had reverse A-pillars at the end of the windshield--made it a little hard to get into the vehicle. We had increased front and rear overhangs, increasing the length of the vehicle. Everything was exaggerated. And, the vehicles became--the name of the game became the lowest and longest and widest vehicle. So, this just simply tried to show that in a simple cartoon. In the 1960's--the public by their reaction and some of the designers and the grayer [and wiser] heads in the group prevailed and said, "Let's cut this stuff out now," and we started to get back to design for automotive beauty in itself. Simpler lines started to come in--lines that were tailored and ran from the front to the rear in a clean or singly broken line that hopped up into a modified fin. And, during this period, the vehicles went up a little bit. In fact, the overall height went up slightly to provide better room for entry and egress. We had pulled them down so far in the late 1950's that we had to go back up to make it palatable for people to now get into and [have] comfortable room in the rear seat. So--and it was during the 1960's that we started to get some super-special vehicles, like the Thunderbirds and the Corvettes before that, but we started to pick up cars for the public in the 1960's. Like the Mustang, which is one of the notable ones that came up--the Falcon was in there, and, when we got into the 1970's, there were two significant things that happened in there. Obviously, the gasoline shortage and then the Government mandates--when it was felt that the automobile industry would not introduce those things that were required soon enough, and during that period the company, even though the movement by the ecologists, let's say, happened in the late 1960's, the impact in design happened in 1970 because of the lead time it had taken.
So, what we had done was to start to reduce the size of the vehicle. Because of the enormous tooling costs, we just simply couldn't throw away all the tools that we had, all the platforms, the frames that we had, all the running gear, so it had to be done on a gradual basis, at least, as far as Ford Motor Company was concerned. So, we saw when a body or a vehicle was to have a facelift, minor modifications to it, or a complete change, at that time we would make the effort to reduce the sheet metal sizes, make the vehicles more compact. Remember, we are still talking about large vehicles at this time--six-passenger vehicles. Then, as a co-running program, we started the little vehicle programs--cookie-cutter models--they all started to look alike--the Volkswagens, the little Fiestas, all those vehicles--that went on as a separate program as a short-cut to achieve the gasoline mileage. So, we had Government mandates on safety and emissions hitting us, adding prices to the car, and in everyone of these cases, the designer was called upon there to design for function one hundred percent now, and he was happy to receive that challenge and work in that direction. And, then in this period, aerodynamic efficiencies--which were previously thought only to be effective at speeds above 55 miles an hour--were suddenly discovered to be effective around 30-35 miles an hour. So, the full use of wind tunnels was employed, and corners were rounded off in strategic places to start get aerodynamic efficiencies. In the 1980's what's happening now is that we do have an emphasis on small cars, and they are achieving the immediate fuel economies. But, being an old, gray-headed person, I still have the feeling--and that's what I am putting it down as--that the standard 6-passenger, family sedans that we are used to in America , where we have the space to do it, are going to come back. They are not going to come back in the big shapes we used to have, but they'll continue to be the smaller shapes, and the Americans will still look for the commodious feelings, and I think the Continentals, the Lincolns, the Cadillac Sevilles are echoing that--good tailored vehicles, proper size for your comfortableness. And then, coupled with this, full dynamic needs will be recognized, which will mean we may have certain air-spoilers at certain times on the roof, or we may have NASA air-scoop intakes to stop turbulence. We'll reduce the offset of the metal surfaces to the glass planes so there is less turbulence around the glass surfaces there, and then, front-wheel drive will become more predominant in order to make fuller use of the interior of the vehicle while reducing the outside of it--the outside size of the vehicle. And, what I have given here is just a brief cursory overview, and if anybody wants to go into detail on it, I can follow it up. Then, I mentioned in our last conversation that in the development of vehicles, the models of 1927 used almost as much sheet metal in covering from side to side as our cars do today, and so I have drawn on these pictures in 1927 the amount of sheet metal it took to go over the hood, down the side of the hood, down to the frame and back up around the fender on a Model T 1927 model. And, on the next page I have shown, in 1932, that that line was reduced a little bit by lowering the h d line, and then in 1940 the fender became a little easier attached to side of the hood--the side of the hood became less deep. And then, 1949, of course, it indicates that we have efficient use of the sheet metal.
Q: That's really remarkable.
A: It may not measure out 100%, but it's a concept..
Q: And, it's a pattern that you see developing that normally one wouldn't think about.
A: And if you were to project this out into the following years, that line started to grow out into contours out here in the fenders. It went through, and then they grew up in the fins, and you start to waste metal.
Well, back in that period, I was about 18 years of age, and my total thoughts weren't--since I wasn't the manager, I was a trainee learning how to do things, my job was not to take and set style at that point but to learn it and understand it, and so I didn't know, basically, the philosophy that Gregorie was shooting [for] at that time, but I was aware of it. I know we all liked the idea of trying to get vehicles lower, to try to make body surfaces fit in a little bit better, we knew the future--we thought we knew the future was to try to put headlights into fenders and ease up the surfaces, make the bumpers integral with the fenders, so they didn't just stick out there, and that occupied pretty [much] the staff before the war broke out.
Q: Well, I wonder if maybe we should go through some of the photographs I've got, that I've pulled out, as a kind of stimulus, and then we can get into some of the projects that you worked on in the war. I've got some copies of photographs that I pulled out of our photographic file, and I've got them numbered, and I thought you'd just comment or identify some of these things as you can to help us in our files here. We've got Item #1--which is #1621--can you identify this individual on here?
A: Yeah, that's John Hay.
Q: And, what does he have over on his tables?
A: Those tables are about 4 feet high, and they are modeling tables.
He is using a surface gauge to measure the height of a windshield on what appears to be a 1939 Mercury. This [one] was a 1935 Ford, and what he is working on there are quarter-scale models--one-quarter inch equals a foot. I had forgotten we used that size. And, in the foreground was this 1939 Mercury, and in the background is a blackboard drawing of a full-size automobile. John Hay is a story in himself. He came from Ohio and was quite a good craftsman, and in order to get his job with Ford Motor Company, he built a little model--a 4-door [1936 Ford] convertible model. It was about 12-13 inches long, and he made it out of tin cans, had them hammered together, soldered together, painted them. The model had full springing. The doors opened, the hood opened, the headlights lit, the taillamp lit when the tailgate opened, and he sent that in. And, when Mr. Gregorie saw that, he got Mr. Hay into our area right away. So, Mr. Hay, like the rest of us trainees, in his own profession is a superb craftsman.
Q: Did he stay in the styling/design part?
A: Yes, he retired here about 6-7 years ago--is currently living in Algonac [ Michigan ]. And, he is just a superb individual. I can't speak too highly of him. He still may have that little model. If I ever talk to him, I'll tell him to bring it down.
Q: That's a Lincoln-Zephyr--and that's photo #2--the picture was taken in June, 1938--anything that particularly stands out to you?
A: It was taken at the design building--the Triple E building, and the only thing that I am surprised about--I look at that hood side louver, that leading edge, I had forgotten they [were on] the Lincoln-Zephyr there.
Q: Photo #3 is at the bridge--you want to explain anything about this?
A: Yeah. The bridge system--Ford Motor Company was far ahead of General Motors, Chrysler, or Briggs with this particular device for aiding and abetting the creation of full-size clay models, and it was developed by Willys P. Wagner, who is now retired. Willys P. Wagner designed two longitudinal [floor] rails that sat parallel with the center line of the vehicle and ran longitudinally from front to rear. And, at each end of these, two rails were cross surface plates, so that the vehicle was completely surrounded by these metal plates. The two side plates had a little track on them--a little upstanding track. On this track rode what we called a bridge--which, in reality, was two vertical posts, one on either side of the track and a crossbeam, so if you could visualize that there's this plate on the floor, a car setting within that plate area, and this bridge straddled the vehicle. On this bridge, there are 10-inch divider bars that you can put in a measuring stick and measure from these divider bars into the clay model and orient yourself, or get any coordinate that you wanted from that particular model. The bridge had the capability of rolling on these tracks from the front edge of the vehicle to the full aft edge of the vehicle. The bridge scales could be adjusted, and on the track that set on the floor, there were holes located at every inch so that [at] every inch increment, the bridge could be locked into place. Our competitors--General Motors and Chrysler-used metal surface plates and cut out plywood or masonite templates and fitted them into the side of the clay model, and then they scraped down it. Our system was much faster for doing the original design, and, more importantly, once the design was approved, for getting off the coordinates onto the drafting paper.
Q: How many of these units might have been in operation at one time?
A: Before 1940--before 1941 we must have had about 6 or 7 of the bridges going at that time, and in the background you can see what looks like a wood structure, and that is one of my first design assignments at Ford, and that wood structure was called a viewing platform. That viewing platform was big enough to ride up over the full-size clay model so that Mr. Gregorie and others could climb up on that bridge and look down at that model to see how the line flowed in plan view from the hood to the front door, to the rear door, to the rear fender. Since Mr. Gregorie was originally a ship designer, he was especially conscious of the need for flowing lines. General Motors didn't quite go that route. They usually had a good line flowing from their rear fender to the rear door, to the front door, but then they broke in plan view, the cowl and hood line--a sharp break inboard--I don't know why they did that, but they did. This particular picture, for instance, shows a clay model inside of the bridge that you showed me. That's photo #12832, and I can leave these with you.
Q: Okay, very good. When we refer to them, we just get the [negative] number. How about this one--that's photo #4--looks like a a clay model. [Does it] ring any bells?
A: Sure does. The gentleman in the background of the model is Jay [Haskins], and I don't know his last name. He was formerly a sweeper and expressed desire to become a clay modeler, and, as is with Ford Motor Company, there is always somebody looking out for another person, and he was soon transferred and began clay modeling. Further in the background is, again, the little quarter-scale models that we worked on. Usually before you started a full-size model you developed it in the quarter-scale, and Mr. Edsel Ford, or Mr. Gregorie, or whoever was calling the shots said, "Okay, make a full size." Now what's in the bridge is a full-size model of a [ Lincoln- ] Zephyr, and it appears to be the late Zephyr--the 1939, because you can see the running board area. It may even be a study further on. It could have been a 1938 model brought in and really worked in around the doors to see if the body could be brought down flush--or the running board could be brought way inboard to eliminate any semblance of a kickout at the bottom. And, there is that platform back there.
Q: What about photo #5?
A: Can't help with it--that was one of those vehicles that was built before my time. Of course, the only thing I really loved on that was the--Whippet. [ Lincoln greyhound hood ornament]
Q: Photo #6 is a frame--rear engine.
A: No, I am not familiar with that.
Q: No. 7 is a panel delivery truck.
A: No, I had nothing to do with the design of that. I remember doing some schematic drawings which indicated the colors and how to assemble the front end of that which we made up in the design department and sent down to Rouge.
Q: No. 8 is from August, 1937--a cab-over truck.
A: I didn't do any designing on that, but that was in there when I-Just about the time I walked in the door, so it was there. I probably had nothing to do with it.
Q: No. 10 is a Zephyr, has the running board.
A: No. The picture was taken before I got there. I don't know what they would have been exploring. I am not sure. I notice back here--this quarter window has what looks like a CV--controlled ventilation--but I am not....
Q: No. 11--we have looked at this before--the possibility of it being an English car.
A: Yeah. About that time, war clouds were gathering over in Europe ,and a fellow by the name of V.Y. Tallberg--I think it was Germany . Somewhere between 1937-1939--I am not sure--there was a liaison between design need for the German [Ford] cars, and they'd ship some of the cars over, and we'd work on the front end of the model, and I don't know whether I worked on this one or another one, but several of us had. About 3 or 4 front ends [were] being done simultaneously, and each one of us had a front end to do. This looks like it could have been one of them. Although, by the date on this, that would have been December, 1937. I would be only in the design department for a couple, three months at the most. I would not have had an assignment like that.
Q: No. 12 is an experimental car.
A: I have no idea. In fact, I am surprised. I didn't know Ford Motor ever did anything like that.
Q: Well, it may have been just something that--a small model. It looks like a 1/10th size.
A: I know that Mr. E.T. Gregorie did a number of roadsters for Edsel prior to the time the department was formed, and at that. time keeping the wheels separate from the body, doing a little race car, and then enclosing them was prevalent--sort of like this rear cover.
Q: No. 13 is the next photo showing a mockup of the seat and the door. I guess my concern here is, is this the way that it was done? What was this called?
A: Well, it wouldn't be called a seating-buck, obviously, and I don't know what [term] we used then, but that's the way they were shown. The door panels were usually set up on easels or wood forms and set alongside of the--either the front or rear seat, which was trimmed in the proposed design. So, you could say it was an interior platform mockup.
Q: We have a couple photos, I guess, that are related-.-gentleman working in a studio--#14 and #21--and, you've got #13766.
A: I put down--as I wrote on mine, "Designer Bruno Kolt sketching for Design Department, circa, 1939." In the background is a. 1939 Ford, a wooden mobile viewing platform, boards for displaying drawings and a portion of a clay modeling bridge. The wooden mobile platform was used to look down on the top view of the clay models to ensure the cars contour line flows smoothly--for example, the hood, the doors and the roof quarter panel.
Q: And, he was with the [styling] department.
A: Prior to the war years, and his particular forte was doing grilles-the front ends of the vehicles.
Q: What about photo #15?
A: Yes. That brings back good memories for me because I have other photographs to go with it. Your photographs shows John Najjar, in a smock, working on a full-size blackboard drawing. We called the big boards that held the full-size drawings of automobiles, blackboards. The reason that we had them painted black was that the black allowed you to put renderings on top of that board, and the black would recede into the background. This blackboard would be anywhere from 17 feet to 24 feet, and at each end were mounted, supporting wheels which were spread out, of course, so the blackboard could be used on both sides. The blackboard, being about 71 feet high, and could be used on both sides, and was faced with plywood. In this particular drawing, the man on the right is Edward A. Martin, and what we are doing here is making a layout on what appears to be a full-size, 1939 Mercury.
Q: Off to the left is some device that has my curiosity.
A: Yes, that's called a "sweep-rack" and had wheels on the bottom of it, and it [was] set up like a mobile clothes-hanger rack, and hanging from this rack on either side are long, wooden splines--these splines were about 40 inches in length, and we called them sweeps or splines. Spline, of course, was a one-by-one piece of wood, 4 feet long to 10-15 feet long, and you could bend these pieces of wood to take on a smooth curve. The sweeps were irregular shapes, about 2-3 feet; long, keeping gentle curves on them for--people referred to them as French curves in the drafting business--for drawing the lines on the models. And, then there are the true sweeps, and the true sweeps, again, are 40-42 inches long, and they are segments of a radius, and you'd get a 40-inch radius, 50-inch radius, and it would be set up in a series of coverage. We'd use these full-size pieces, usually made out of wood or plastic, or aluminum, to draw.
Q: This kind of relates to a photo you have. I am just wondering if there is a number on the back of this one.
A: The photo that I have is a blackboard drawing being colored in. After a drawing was done on tracing paper, it would be run off on the blueprint machine, brought back, and stapled up to the blackboard, and then the designers would take chalk, large chalk sticks, and color in the salient feature, and people--passengers that would be in the vehicle-this would be shown along to management, showing how much room there would be for the people. In the drawing that I have, the man in the foreground is Tucker Madawick, who later became President of Design for RCA Corporation. The middle man was Edward A. Martin, who was my mentor and teacher, and then, of course, myself, John Najjar. And that's the drawing.
Q: That's the completed drawing, and that's #16147. The next one that I have is #16. I don't know how you would describe it.
A: Well, that's an action photograph of clay modelers at work, loading the clay onto a clay model. Loading the clay meant the raw armature was rolled into this bridge form, set into position with its jacks and locating pins, and the clay ovens would be heated up to a temperature of 140 degrees. Chavant clay was used at that time, and usually came in either a gray-green color, or a rust, chocolate color. Ford Motor, at that time, was using the gray-green Chavant clay, and this came in billets of about 10-15 pounds apiece. These were put into our warming ovens, which at that time--and I have a picture of them back in my book here--were simply boxes with either lightbulbs or heat element strips, and you had to watch the clay very carefully because once the clay got too hot, it turned liquid, and then the sulfur broke out of it, and it became useless. But, when the temperature was just right, it was completely malleable in your hand like bread dough just before you bake it, and with this in your hand, you could now start to apply the clay to the clay model by putting it on in thin layers, layer after layer after layer. And, after a certain time, your hands toughened up to the heated clay, and the friction of applying it, and you soon found out your ability as an armature designer was to be able to foresee how far [thick] the final clay would be. You'd sometimes get clay 6 inches to 8 inches, to 9 inches deep on a model as it went from rough clay to finish. So, what these gentlemen in this picture are doing (and, they're all over the model)--Bob Paulson is the man with the striped shirt on the left. That's the only one I can identify--(I've got another photograph that shows that Jimmie Mearns is somewhere around that model). They are putting in the rough clay, and those are hand marks on there rather than tool marks, and the grooves you see on the surface are--there's hot clay in your hand, the fingers rubbing it off.
Q: Is it possible to estimate how many people may have worked on this and how long it took them to reach this stage?
A: Yes, it is, and it varies. One is your time element--if you have to make ready for a show, you can pour so many more man hours on it. If you have a lot of leisurely time, and the drawings aren't quite done, it'd take longer. But, usually when we were loading the clay on--loading the clay on was the task of about six people, and it was a rotating thing because it was an ugly job, and so you take a crew of six guys off of one clay model: "Okay, it's your turn to load the clay on this," [and] so it rotates. So, there'd be--the front of the vehicle would take two guys, body would take two guys, and about two guys on the rear was the way we worked it. As we got more sophisticated, we stopped claying in the windshield, as I notice on the model--we tried to cut in. The model shows the way as we got more sophisticated--we cut out wooden templates of masonite and sank them into the surface (since they are flat planes) and brought the clay up to the glass planes. Time element on this--the armature would have taken about, oh, a week and a half to two weeks to build. It was made out of wood and hung on either to a metal production frame, it being its underlayment, or there'd be wood--two-by-twelves-that would be the frame to which the armature would be built. So, that took about a week and a half to two weeks. Loading the clay on would take about a week--loading the clay on was just not simply making a blob of clay, it is building the clay up to predetermined surfaces, usually set in with templates or some other points from our bridge, and from that point on, after you had it loaded and, in general, roughed in, it would take you about 8-12 weeks to finish up that clay model so that it was ready for paint, or shown in its final clay surface, smoothed down with turpentine and silver foil on the moulding and door handles, and the bumpers rolled up. So, elapsed time--let's say 6 to 8 weeks--about 3 months.
Q: No. 17--how can we describe this?
A: That is an armature that is being torn apart. It was, obviously, a clay model at one time, and it looks like circa 1939 because of that shape on that front. It was either a Ford or a Mercury, and it has been through the shows, and it's no longer needed, so the clay is being stripped off it to be used--put into the machines and rebuilt again. The wood armature could again be used if they found out that they could rip off the back end and add new pieces of wood to conform to our new shapes.
Q: Who would have constructed this armature?
A: Our wood shop. That was under the aegis of Jimmy Lunch, who was in charge of our metal/wood shops. In the wood shop there were about 10-12 people in there--pattern makers, and Johnny Hay was now in there--the man I mentioned previously.
Q: Did this wood have to be of any particular type, or did it...?
A: [laughs] I am glad you brought that up--no, it didn't. As far as I am concerned, it could have been just straight wood, lathe work, or knotted--but not at Ford Motor Company! They had a habit of ordering in No. 1 clear, and that meant no knots in the wood, and all the wood that went underneath in the bulkheads of this was pure, so when they broke up one of these models, and they went to truck the wood out, it broke your heart because you'd just love to have the piece of wood for whittling. So, that's just a point.
Q: Interesting. No. 18, I think, we looked at before.
A: That's a full-size, blackboard drawing of a 1939 Mercury, and it shows all of the important look of the vehicle. Now, from this drawing, it could be just shown as a mechanical drawing, or we could color it in to make a full-size, color drawing, but it showed the significant outline of the vehicle, its stance, how the bumpers were attached, the fender profiles, the hood profile, the door openings, and then inboard, and hidden lines--the seat movement, the steering wheel, the floor of the driveline--a pretty complete informational drawing.
Q: No. 13763. It's kind of interesting. We each have the same photo.
A: It's a birdseye view looking down at designers, clay modelers working on a full-size clay model. And, you can see the bridge platform, that I previously described, and the bridge itself. There are four men working on this particular model, and the man with his back to us with the apron on and his foot up on it is Jimmie Mearns, who was a wood pattern maker. I think the man with his back to us was another wood maker by the name of Tony Schuck. The man facing us, on the far side of the clay model, again in the striped shirt, is Bob Paulson, and I don't know the name of the gentleman on the far left. Jimmie Mearns is standing on a step-stool. The step-stool was designed to have four legs to come down, and it would bridge over the rails, so you could climb up on the vehicle and apply clay to the roof, and he is standing on a piece of 18x24 cardboard on which they would lay their tools--scraping tools and blue steels--so they didn't get embedded in the clay, and so they kept their foot print also off the clay model.
Q: What are they working on? What is the product?
A: That's a good question. It's hard to tell. But, the way the back of that roof is, it looks like it could have been a couple--starting off with a coupe, and the way the fenders are starting, there still is a remnant of a running board coming into it, so I'd say circa, 1939.
Q: What about in the background? Can you identify anything in there?
A: A small blackboard. You can see the edge of it, and in my photograph on the right you can see some layout tables, and in the far background are the designers' drawing tables. I am trying to identify the car. That looks like a 1938 Ford to me--looking at this line and the way the fender is.
Q: Photograph #20--where we have several individuals looking at a car--I guess you've got a #13764. Can we identify them?
A: The man on the left, I don't know. The man with his hand on his hips is Bruno Kolt, the man we saw in the previous sketches. The man on the far side of the vehicle, facing us, is Frank Francis. He was secretary, clerk, bookkeeper to E. T. Gregorie. Then, the next man, with his arms folded, is John Walter. He had charge of instrument panels. And, the man on the right was Walter Kruke, who was in charge of the interior-the fabric and the seat trim styles. Looks like they are looking at a 1939 Mercury--one of the first models to be delivered.
Q: I guess this would be in a certain [outside] area--showing area or what?
A: It was outside the design department in the open area. The design
department is on the South side of the Tripe E building. There is a [space] that was clear all the way up to the administration portion of the building, and in that area they would bring out some of the cars. If it was a production car, they probably wouldn't have tried to have any secrecy.
Q: And, that is #22. We looked at this before.
A: The only thing different about this one is--on the right-hand side of it is a portable drawing table, on top of which are some sweeps that were used in doing further drawing you notice, on this particular blackboard. It, obviously, was a blueprint of a drawing, stapled up upon a white background, and then the windows were cut out, so you could fully see the silhouette of the vehicle.
Q: To identify those--that was good. Gave us a lot of useful information.
A: You are welcome to take these--trying to find Life magazine that had this shot in it--which seems to be better than any of the shots we have looked at for showing the scope of the design department--this was 1940, Life magazine.
Q: We call this [photo] #23. This would have been in the Triple E building?
A: Yes. [I'm] sorry, I tore it out of there... but it was a wholearticle on Ford Motor Company in Life, and I don't know what time it was--1940. I'm starting to go through the book stores, and I am sure I can find it. But, this shows the picture of one quarter of the design department--one quarter or one half--looking toward Oakwood Boulevard-out over the ponds. So, on the right up here would be the administration portion of the building--the [Henry Ford] Museum was over here--there would be a wall coming across here to separate us from the other people.
Q: One thing I noticed in this photo, I am a little concerned with all the windows there. Were people able to look in on the work that was going on?
A: Oh, no. At that time we were in the country--everything across Oakwood Boulevard was field except for a gas station, and there was a little guard shack just as you turned in from Oakwood Boulevard onto this--I don't want to say Brady--into the Ford area, there was a guard shack--so people were shunted down along the road. I think you can see it from this photograph, down to the front of the building. But, there were also bushes. So, where we can see out to the road, when you were walking along there, you couldn't see in. You can see the two types of [styling] bridges here. This was one type of bridge we had, and then we were told that the bridges were twisting--that structurally they weren't strong, so "bird-cages" were built on top, and they still weren't strong enough, so we went back and tried another one. This bridge was made out of plywood sheathed with 1/8 inch aluminum, and then boxed, and it was a dodo--it did fine, but it wasn't a sweetheart. It was just about as effective as the original one. But, I particularly like this photograph because it shows all phases. It shows a little mockup showing the seat and the profile of a roof as it came forward with the steering wheel mockup in it--showed me with a full head of hair working on the model--E.T. Gregorie--showed the sweeps laying on the table--the sweep rack.
Q: Shows some of the projects that were going on at that time.
A: You want me to turn this whole book over to you so you can take out what you want and--this one I'd like to know if you keep any of the material on it--just for my record. You'll eventually get it all, anyhow.
Q: I wonder if we should talk a little about some specific projects and get into the war, too, a bit here. One of the things you had listed on your list of projects were the 1939 Ford--and also the first plastic car. I am wondering for a place to start on any of these projects--where we should pick up again on the late 1930's discussion. Is there a convenience place we can pick up on some of the work you did at this time?
A: Well, during that time, it was a question of personal growth, as an individual learning the tools of my trade, going to night school, so I was doing that. And, as I got better at my own abilities, I was assigned a greater degree of tasks, and one of those tasks turned out to be on the first plastic car. Edward Martin and I were assigned to work on that vehicle, and E.T. Gregorie, being the type of person he was, when he took on an assignment, he wanted to do the whole thing, so we had a carte blanche order to go out and do it. So, we boldly set up the engine, and the frame, and the springing, and the structure that goes through the Apillars and B-pillars, and proceeded to build a small model on it. As I mentioned in our last session, Mr. [Robert] Boyer, who was assigned to do the plastic work out of soybeans by Mr. Henry Ford, had his own ideas on it. If we made it out of plastic, nobody else was going to get the credit, he was. So, somewhere along the line, we were taken off the program, but that was a memorable program for me because E.T. Gregorie fed us the information he wanted, and we did the detailed drawing on it, sent out to have the parts made. It was always a thrill at that time to see the parts come back, assemble them and see how they worked.
Q: When you say the parts came back, was this sent to some jobber?
A: The tubular frame was sent to our shop--the parts would be sent toour shop. If they didn't have the facilities to do it, they might go out and have it done by a jobber, but most of it was done internally. And, the parts I refer to, of course, were for this little, 1/4 or 3/8 scale model. And, one of the things of personal interest was that Mr. Gregorie could hardly wait for the model to come back of the body frame. If you can visualize, the plastic at that time wasn't going to be welded into itself by plastic glue. As I remember, it had to be attached to an armature, or a structure, and so it was this structure that Mr. Gregorie had conceived of that was brought back. One day we sat it on the floor, and proceeded to jump on it to see if it would break, and this was his method of approving that it would be structurally strong when it was full size. So, it was just a point. The next thing I had an opportunity to do was working on the Continental--the first Lincoln Continental for Mr. Edsel Ford--and that was quite challenging, and being able to model the shapes onto the deck where I worked--on the deck of the spare tire, and the rear fender, and I was doing that work for Bill Wagner at the time, and I was able at that time to influence the shape of the surfaces. I was told what to do, but I still was the one who had to flow the surface through, and I am not saying I got it through the first time. Mr. Gregorie would come by, say, "No, John, that's a little too sharp. Do it this way." So, in his mind, he designed it, but by my 18-year-old-19-year-old mind, I designed it, you know. So, that's about all I can say during that period of those vehicles. One element I had forgotten--I think it was in this period before the war started, I was also assigned to work on the Ford Ferguson tractor. Harry Ferguson and Henry Ford had struck an agreement to build the first non-tiltable, or-rearable tractor. When he rolled this tractor into our place, I remember one of our clay modelers--his name was Bert Pugh--again, he was a sweeper who had been given a chance, and it was his job to work with me. We clay modeled the sheet metal on the front end of this tractor, showing the hood and grille work, and, I think, I have a couple of design sketches of that at home. But, the important thing I am trying to get at was that we finished this model, rolled it out and set it out in the middle of the room where it was, cleaned everything around it, and then we were relegated to the side as Mr. Gregorie made the presentation. I don't remember whether Edsel Ford was there, but Mr. Ford and Ferguson came. Mr. E. T. Gregorie made the presentation, we kept looking from around the blackboard, and Mr. Ferguson walked up to the model, onto the left hand side of it, and he put his foot onto the clay step, and went right through it. Mr. Ford laughed, and then he patted Ferguson on the back, and Mr. Gregorie was apologetic, and then he walked around to the right side of the model, after a while, and Mr. Ford took a pencil out of his pocket and did something to that running board, and they left. Photographers came around and took pictures. I walked up to the model and on the running board. I said, if my memory is right, "Okay, H.F." Now, shoot forward to circa, 1955, no, it was about 1952-'53. Ferguson is suing Ford [1948-1952], and they are trying to find out--I remember the legal office came down and asked if anybody is around who was around at that time, and I identified the photograph. Whose signature is that? "Okay, H.F."--okay, Harry Ferguson, or Henry Ford." and, I said, "Mr. Ford," and they told me that I would probably be called for a deposition, but I never was. I am sorry--that was a just a little anecdote.
Q: Interesting. You had mentioned, too, that you were going to school. What did this constitute, and where was it?
A: There were three places-- Meinzinger Art School was on the corner of Woodward and Warren. I don't remember the man himself, but he had a commercial art school, and one of the things he taught was air-brushing-applying a paint through a spray gun powered by air, and I wanted to learn this skill, because I had the feeling it was going to be the next wave in rendering. I think I saw G.M. had some already, and I thought I better learn it. So, I went down there to learn the commercial techniques. And, I was going out to Cranbrook , took a couple other classes. They had some sketch classes going out there, free life--and Wayne State had some commercial courses in doing advertising work. At that time I was still a young man, and I wasn't sure I was going to be in automotive design all my life, and I was preparing.
Q: Would there have been any other employees that would do the same type of thing that you did?
A: Yes. Take Bud Adams, a friend of mine then and still is today, he was going to LIT--Lawrence Institute of Technology--and night school, and he was studying. He didn't want to be a designer. He wanted to be an engineer. He did become that--an all-A student. I don't know of any of the other fellows that went out to school at night. They sure must have. But, I know a couple of them--like the rest of us--would go back to the apprentice school and take some of the mathematical courses, and I kept that up all during my early years. But, at that time there was no formal school that we could go to. There was one just starting about that time out in Los Angeles -- Los Angeles Art Center --started by "Tink" Adams-quite well known in the business now, and sponsored by Ford Motor, General Motors and Chrysler. But, there just wasn't that kind of thing. You had to go to different places, plus your natural talents.
Q: Well, we wanted to talk about some of the war projects that you were assigned. Can you refresh us in what happened when the war broke out?
A: Okay. That was December, 1941-- Pearl Harbor and just before Pearl Harbor . I don't know why it was--sometime around in October, as I remember it, we were told we were going to do drawings of the B24 bomber -- that the design department was going to convert to war. And, at that time, Johnny Walter, who had charge of instrument panels, quit. He figured he could still get work on the outside. He wasn't going to be transferred over to the airframe building and become a detailer. Certain fellows were told at that time they would be transferred out. The rest of us, until their time of transfer, were put on the [drafting] board, tracing down the Consolidated B24 bomber drawings--tracing them line for line and putting Ford Motor Company title blocks on. So, it became our drawings, with our numbering system. They had the contract, and they were going to get running. So, they had their own discipline. So, that's what we were doing at the design department, starting there. Then, I received my orders from the design department to go down to the Rouge plant and work on the M4A3 tank. I reported to the man there by the name of Dale Roeder. I remember meeting Dale. He had a little cyst on the top of his balding head, looked like the turret of a--he was kind of disgruntled that he was receiving a stylist, as we were called, and what the hell do you do with him and all that stuff. He sent me out on the board to work for a man by the name of Stan Vahey--big red-headed Irishman--big bold hands that seemed so crude until he picked up a pencil, and they became very delicate. Now, Mr. Vahey sat down, had a talk with me, asked me what experience I had and told me what I needed, and he said, "You will be doing--you will be working on production illustrations, but if you want to do meaningful work, John, I advise you to take trig, algebra, and these other things." So, okay, I was classified a 2F because I had a war job at that time, and I signed up for all the classes YOU could think of and worked 10 hours a day, and then go to these classes at the Rouge plant afterward, and then go home after that.
Q: Were these sponsored by the company?
A: Yes--very much so.
Q: Was it part of the Henry Ford Trade School , or...?
A: I think it was over at the Trade School because I remember going over--the hospital was underneath, and I went upstairs to the classes there. And, I did production illustration, and working down at production illustration there was another man there--a young fellow by the name of Arthur Querfeld--whose family owned the Querfeld Funeral Home on Oakwood Boulevard, and Art was never in the design department, but he was down there doing production illustration, and he was doing production illustrations of some of the armored vehicles. I was doing production illustration of all the--for the instruction book for the M4A3 tank--this is the way you throw a "tarp" [tarpaulin] on, this is the way you install a heater, this is the way you tie down this--and I always loved the way Art drew tire. He got the treads in it very nice. Now, I just knew Art casually then, and I got to know him better over the years.
Q: When we say "production illustrations"...?
A: A production illustration is a hand-drawn, photographic visualization of an item, so that if we had designed a Tarpaulin, say--let's say we had designed a metal box to fit into a certain part of a tank, it might be two months before that metal box got into a tank to take a photograph of it. It was important that you had a picture of how that box fit on there so it was a pictorial illustration--a photographic type of art rendering of installations. At that time, Mr. Vahey had indicated that there was a competition on between Chrysler--no, between Fisher Body, who had the M4A2 tank, I think it was, and we had the M4A3. They were the same tank, but G.M. was doing one version, and we were doing the other, and there was a competition on to show the drawings of the tank to the top brass, whoever that was, and I was given the assignment to take that M4A3 tank and do large, mechanical drawings--scale drawings--of that tank and dissect it. I took the tank and cut it longitudinally in half, and showed its innards, right through the engine, the drive lines and gun-sights, everything, and I did it all in ink, and it was done on a sheet of paper 24x36 [inches]--that was Drawing V. Then, I did a side view of the tank, as though you'd see it from the side--a front view, a side view, and a top view. These drawings were taken to Washington , the presentation was made, and later it came back, if I remember right, and they congratulated Stan Vehey and me personally because the Ford drawings looked the best. So, I was quite proud. But, by that time, Mr. Vahey and Mr. Roeder had confidence that I could do something else, and they put me in charge of scarfing--scarfing was taking a large slab of armor plate steel--a plate 3 feet wide, 21 inches thick, 17 feet long--and that piece of plate had to be cut out by the torches, with the proper angles on it, so when it was done--like one side of a house--it would fit on either one side of the tank. And, in order to get those planes right, you had to know your trade, you had to know your geometry, and have your measurements right. Of course, Mr. Vahey was there to check me out. I was proud to say I was in charge of the scarfing for the sheet metal of the hull and also had another competition they assigned me to, which was to design the air intake grilles on the back of the tank that would allow air to come in but no bullets. And, again, it was a competition. Well, this one we lost--I lost. The one that won was a Venturi type of van done by General Motors, and I had done one that looked like a--the letter S that interlocked--but they felt one that they didn't have to move (actuate) was the better one.
Q: When you were working on these projects, would you actually have the tanks there so you could see them, or...?
A: Yeah, we were upstairs, at Gate 4 [Rouge plant]--seems like I always made a circle again back to Gate 4. We were above where the old apprentice school was, and where I was assigned to the first time by Mr. Ford when I left the apprentice school. Back up to that area, that had grown in size now--across the street from Gate 4, was the engine building, and we had what we called the White House, and in the White House were samples of the jeeps, samples of the tanks, samples of the gun carriers. then, to the one side of it, they had a garage where they assembled all this stuff, and then they had a test driver go out and test it--a guy by the name of "Speedy" something was our tester. And, in that area, Mr. Vahey said, "Okay, John, we are going to try you out. You are going to do the fuel-line installation on this M4A3 tank. We want to make modifications. So, design it, we'll approve it, and you follow it all the way through to all your drawings, and if the parts are made up, install it and test it. And, so that was the last thing I did before I went down again to the draft board, and they decided I was a 4F (draft classification)--they wouldn't take me. I had a physical problem--still have--and the Ford Motor Company heard I was 4F--I was taken out of there and moved back to the design department to work on the last vestiges of doing cars again and beginning of the new cycle--they were allowed to do just a little bit.
Q: So, roughly how long were you working on these so-called war projects?
A: Let's see. I went there January, 1942, and left there November, 1943, so that would have been a year and three-quarters. A long stretch.
Q: What about your work schedule during that time? Was it from 8:00 to 5:00 , or was it much longer?
A: Much longer than that. It was a 10-hour day, and overtime on top of that on special things, and a 6-day week. And, I lived out on the East Side near the City Airport , and at that time we had OPA, and you had to get the fuel rationing, and I picked up people all the way across the city to do it. And, as things--the Summer of 1943, as an aside--I was a young man, and there were a lot of females around, and I didn't know how to dance. I [answered] an ad from Arthur Murray's. It said, "You [don't] need to [know how to] dance. We need instructors, come down." So, I applied there. You can imagine, after working 10 hours a day, and doing some studying, I'd get down to the Statler Hotel, they accepted me, and I was taught how to be an instructor, and I'd get down there, maybe about 8:00 o'clock and after about 4-5 weeks, I knew how to dance--how to do the basic steps, and they put me on the assignment of dancing with the women who wanted to buy lessons. I got tired of the selling bit, and they suddenly farmed me out to the YWCA's, and I had the downtown YWCA--must have been 35 women, and there must have been about 6 men--and I remember putting on a demonstration down there where we had the sounds of the Battle of Britain, and we had search lights throwing aircraft shadows on the ceiling, and we invited servicemen to come in to be taught how to do the dances. And, I was the instructor. So, I did that for about two years.
Q: Well, I think we've taken it up to the--to after the war. It would probably be a good time to end the second one. We can pick up from postwar on in the next session. Thank you.
This is the third interview, May 17, 1984 , with John Najjar conducted under the auspices of the Design History Center of the Archives of the Henry Ford Museum . This is Dave Crippen.
We've picked up John's career shortly after he left the tank program at Ford and returned to the Design Department.
Q: So, John, do you think you could pick up your career at that point and take it from there?
A: Yes. I left the Rouge plant in November of 1943 and returned to the Design Department. And, the war was still on, but they had started to plan ahead, to figure that the war would soon be coming to an end, hopefully, and that they had to start getting some post-war models ready. When I walked into the Design Department, I was amazed [after] not having seen it for a couple of years. They still had the remnants of an aircraft tail assembly. It was a full-size clay model of a navy tail assembly for the B24 bomber. It was a U.S. Navy version of it [Privateer]. Evidently, the Design Department had been doing a small amount of government work during the absence of a large number of employees. Anyhow, getting back to the postwar models, our task was to take the vehicles and adapt what materials were available to those vehicles. For instance, chrome was not [yet] released. So, we still had keep on with the thought that if we couldn't get the chrome, the bumpers would have to be painted. And, certain plastics were hard to get. So, it was one of getting back into the automotive design groove, so to speak.
About that time, John Walter (who had previously been a Ford employee and had elected to leave the company when we were all moved out of the Design Department to work on the war effort) had picked up a private industrial design contract with Whirlpool Corporation and with John Tjaarda, who is credited with doing the original Lincoln Zephyr series, doing that nice flowing front end. John Tjaarda would give John Walter an assignment, and John Walter, who drew mechanically but did not draw artistically, contacted me and asked me if I wanted to do a little moonlighting, and I said, "Sure." So, I worked for John doing some washing machines, dryers for Whirlpool Corporation, some manure spreading machines, sleek sewing machines for John Tjaarda, being careful to not work on anything that was automotive aligned. About that time, Mr. Gregorie got wind, when one of my drawings was publishing in Fortune magazine, that I'd been doing the work and asked me if I'd been working on the outside, and I said, "Yes." He said, "Well, we don't allow that," and I said, "I wasn't aware of that." And I really wasn't, and he said that I should stop doing it, which I agreed to do. I wasn't about to give up a Ford career.
Q: Was that an accepted practice even though it wasn't allowed in those days?
A: I really don't know. I don't remember it being part of the statement when I was hired.
Q: John, I wonder if I might interrupt your flow of thought. I'm sorry to do this, but, perhaps, at a convenient time we can come back and talk about John Tjaarda, working with the Zephyr.
A: Well, I know very little about that, Dave. All I know is that later on while I was doing this work with John Tjaarda and John Walter, I was not aware of his close ties in developing that vehicle. It was later on that I started to read about the history of John Tjaarda.
Q: It was at Briggs wasn't it?
A: I think it was at Briggs that he started to do the work. Of course,
Ford Motor had contracted-it was an Edsel [Ford] conception, project.
Q: So, you had no real input in that?
A: No, no direct--in fact, I don't think I ever met the man.
Q: One more quick anecdote about that era. It's been postulated that Dr. Ferdinand Porsche was in town and saw the experimental model of the Zephyr at the 1934 World's Fair in Chicago and that gave him the inspiration for the design of the Volkswagen. Have you ever heard that?
A: Never heard that story, never heard it. [It's] very logical.
Q: Please resume your narrative.
A: As a personal thing in that period after Mr. Gregorie talked to me, I began to think a little about is Ford my life, is it my career? So, I contacted [Walt] Disney [Studios] in California . Wrote them a letter and sent them samples of drawings, and they invited me to come out, and I did go out there on a summer vacation, a quick one and had a discussion with them, and they offered me a position in drawing. Position meaning working on a board drawing, and they asked me to make up my mind within two or three weeks. Came back to Ford and thought about it and decided not to do it. Stayed with Ford. In other words, just a side source of pride that I would have been accepted in another field which I loved.
Then, in about May of 1945, I was put in charge of being a designer on instrument panels and steering wheels. Assigned to me were two women designers who were the first in the Design Department. I don't know what brought it on, and I don't know anything of the history of it, but we ended up with something like two, four, six women in the Design Department somewhere in the period of 1945 through 1947.
Q: Was this an unusual development in the industry at that time?
A: It was very surprising. We hadn't heard of women being in the design business up to then.
Q: What was their training background?
A: Well, the first [woman] in the designing department was Leota Carrol who evidently had done some sketching in high school and went through the same process as many of us being interviewed, and she worked on a board directly with one of the designers, Ross Cousins, and he taught her how to use pastels. She was a striking beauty, incidentally.
Then there was Florence Peterson who was a very tall individual, a Mormon and had done some drawing in school and liked sketching. There was a woman by the name of Ellery Campbell, and [three other] women by the name of Letha Allen, Beth O'Rourke, and Doris Dickerson. My memory doesn't really allow me to go back to figure out what their background was, but I know that the two women who were assigned to me, Beth O'Rourke and Doris Dickerson, worked with me on sketching instrument panels and clay modeling them.
About that time E.T. Gregorie began to think about the [Ford] Company's position in the marketplace. Mr. Gregorie had a very [forward thinking], advanced mind, I should say, and an eagerness to improve the emposition of the Design Department within the company. From what I saw of, he and Eddie Martin would always go out to lunch together, and following one of their luncheons, Eddie would come back and say, "We've got to put together some programs for E.T. so he can show them to..." Let's see, was Edsel there at that time? I think he was still there.
Q: He died in 1943.
A: No, then he wasn't there. They weren't for him.
Q: I was about to ask you who did Gregorie report to in this period?
A: I don't remember. Do I have a record of that? No, I recall that E.T. Gregorie left in 1943 and returned in 1945. That could have been toward the tail end of Edsel's life. Well, getting back to--I don't know who he was showing them to, but Eddie was making these charts, and I would help him, and we'd make these 18 by 24 charts which showed Ford products, General Motors' projects as we thought about them and Chrysler's and where their market positions would be. And, one thing that always struck me was that we were always out of the middle marketplace. We had the basic Ford, and we had the Continental way up. And, there was this crying need for the Mercury and its position. Could it grow? But, Eddie Martin was very good at that kind of thing, and I did do work on that. I have it [in my] [notebook] "July 1947-1948, Mr. Hibbard." Tom Hibbard came in from G.M. And, by this time, I guess, E.T. Gregorie had--I don't know whether Hibbard was hired by Gregorie or not. Yeah, Gregorie left in December, 1946, and Hibbard came in as head of the Design Department, and George Walker was a consultant at this time.
Q: Now, what was the reason for Gregorie's first departure? In 1943 you said he left for a time and then came back.
A: I don't know about that one. I don't know why he left in 1943, I really don't.
Q: But, you do have him coming back in 1945.
A: Gregorie left  and Eric Ramstrum, a Swedish designer who'd been hired, stood in his place, and then Gregorie returned in 1945, and George Walker was hired as a consultant. Ernie Breech was on board at that time.
Q: Was Breech involved in the design process?
A: Through George Walker. George was a Breech man. George Walker- that's strange I can't remember that, but he [Gregorie] did come back.
Q: Did he regain his former chief stylist position?
A: There was a competition set up after his second return. It was the beginning of the--I think that was a first, all-new 1949 Ford. Gregorie and his team--people who worked for Gregorie were down at the South end of the building where the Design Department was in the Triple E building. A space was carved out for George Walker, Elwood Engel and Joe Oros in the North end of the building at the door nearest the railroad track. And a competition was started for designing a car for the '49 Ford, and when the two models or three models were done, they were shown [to Ford and Breech], and the one done by George Walker Associates was selected. At that time, Mr. Gregorie left again.
Q: Back up for a moment on that. What part did you take in that particular competition?
A: I was working, if I remember right, I was working on instrumentation
On the inside of the vehicle and had nothing to do with the exterior at that point.
Q: As you well know, the first three postwar years were largely facelifts of 1942 models. So you were really shooting in 1946 for the first postwar, all-new Ford which turned out to be the 1949 Ford, and so George Walker's design then became the favorite. That was the upshot of Mr. Gregorie's departure.
A: Well, at the same time while the competition was going on, the 1949 Ford--Mr. Gregorie had been working on another vehicle which had been earmarked for the Ford which later became the body shell for the 1949 Mercury.
Q: That's right, there was some shifting back and forth of the various body shells.
A: Of the sizes, that's right. Yes, and it was a very dramatic change. We decided to make a smaller vehicle than the one that Gregorie had been working on which later turned out to be the 1949 Mercury.
When Mr. Gregorie left, Mr. Tom Hibbard then took over. I think it was in July of '47, and we all moved to the North end of the building near the railroad tracks. The whole Design Department moved up there [in the Triple E building], and Mr. Hibbard appointed me Supervisor of the Mercury studio in that period. Then working on...the '49 Mercury. So, during 1947, Walker was still there working on the finals of the '49 Ford and then somewhere between February of '48 and August of '48, the General Motors influence was felt.
A: man by the name of John Oswald was hired somewhere in there. And John Oswald was a former G.M. design man, and he brought into the design center a man working for him by the name of George Snyder who was put in charge of design over Tom Hibbard. And at that time, George Snyder Started to make changes. He was bringing in the people that he knew rather than the people that were there, and George Snyder had worked in G.M. design. I don't know what projects he had worked on, but he had done several nice, sharp, little automobile scale models that I saw at a later date. He was a tall, strong man as was John Oswald.
Q: Would you say that these were men brought in by Ernest Breech?
A: I don't think so because Breech was a Walker man.
Q: Then, perhaps, Walker brought them in?
A: No, Walker didn't bring them in. I was just trying to figure out who was the tie in and who was the vice president of engineering at that time. In other words, there was a power shift, and Walker was now out. This happened in 1948, and the G.M. people came in. It was that summer, I remember July, that I was still in charge of the Mercury studio finishing up some work on the 1950 model. Starting the 1950's work and decided to get married. We decided to elope, and so I asked for a weekend off. Took off on a Friday and came back on a Monday. My studio door was "proverbially" locked, and so I went up to the front office, and George Snyder was up there, and I said, "What happened," and he says, "I'd have fired you if I could but you have some friend in this company so that I couldn't do it." I said, "Why?" And he said, "I don't like the kind of work you're doing, but you can have a job here if you want, and you'll be working in advanced studio under Gil Spear."
Q: So he didn't like your work in the Mercury studio?
A: He didn't like my work in the Mercury studio.
Q: This may well have been Del Harder (ex-G.M., then F.M.C. manufacturing operations vice president] appointees? Do you think possibly?
A: I'm not sure. I'll have to think about that one or go back to it.
This was quite a shock to me as an individual. Obviously, I had to face up for the first time in my life that I had to stay at a place that I wasn't wanted, put down my oar and go to work and see what could happen. I decided, financially, I couldn't do anything else but stay. So I stayed. And I worked for Gil Spear who at that time was in charge of advanced vehicles and first developed the retractable hardtop during that period.* He did some nice sketching on that. As time went on between the Summer of 1948 to November of 1950, somehow George Walker's name appeared again. He was hired as a consultant; he started to come back in the picture. And the former G.M. people found some worthiness in my talent and made me supervisor of the accessories program.
* Editor's Note: These sketches did not develop into a model. The idea was revived and executed by Ben J. Smith, first for Continental and then for the Ford Division (1957-1959).
Q: These were Oswald and Snyder?
A: Oswald and Snyder. And, so during that period we worked on... and I became, a little later, supervisor of the instrument panel. We did the '51, '52, '53 and '54 Ford instrument panels.
Q: Which were beauties as I recall.
A: Yes, Bill Schmidt came in, and he was the one that developed the beginning of that ... was it the '50's panel? I'll have to go back and check my sketches. I'm not sure. Yeah, Bill Schmidt did a couple of beautiful instrument panels too.
Q: Can I interject here to ask you a couple questions from your out line? You've noted that, in 1947, Eugene Bordinat was hired and that Don DeLaRossa, Bob Maguire all came in at that point.
A: That is right.
Q: That's a pretty heavy influx of what later became very high-powered people. Was that an accident or design?
A: What do you mean accident or design? Did somebody plan for these people to come in?
Q: Was it just coincidence that these three fairly high-powered people came in at the same time? Or where they brought in by someone outside the company?
A: These people were brought in, obviously, by somebody in the company who decided they were hot, good designers from General Motors. I'm fairly sure it was John Oswald or George Snyder that did the hiring, and as it turned out, they picked some good guys. No question on it, especially Bordinat. I can remember them coming in, and this was the competition that was there, and my design was not--being trained by Ford and grew in the element--again looking at it from a designer's point of view, we just weren't as sharp at design. G.M. was the leader, so when these fellows came in and started to throw 18 x 24 sheets of paper on our board and fluently start drawing, you knew that you suddenly had to dig in and go to work. So my being moved out of the Mercury studio was probably a good shot in the arm for me or a shot someplace. I did work during that period and acquired quite a bit of know-how in doing things the G.M. way.
Q: So, in fact, you went back to basics?
A: I went back to basics. And I started working back up into management control, and all of these men that came in were my friends later on.
Q: So that brings you up to about 1950. You moved into interiors at this point?
A: Yes. I had the instrument panels studio, taking care of designs and about that time--let's see, that was the '54 Ford instrument panel--there was a man in charge of engineering who was a fighter pilot in WW I. Damn, I've forgotten his name, never thought I would--a Phi Beta Kappa key, a good engineer. I bring this point up as the personality of the individual—MacPherson! Gee whiz, how could I forget? Earle Steele MacPherson, the father of the strut--front-wheel suspension.
I had been designing the astro-dial which was a see-through speedometer for the 1954 Ford which was a warmed up Ford and wanted to do something on the instrument panel that would perk it up. The astro-dial sat vertically above the panel so that you could look through it, almost, if you shrunk down in the seat far enough [toward] the hood. And the idea there was to give it dramatic back lighting. And I did an automatic transmission dial that was kind of unique (patented later), and I was getting some trouble from one engineer who was not approving it and who had the right of approval, and they couldn't get his concurrence. The name Howard Reed sticks with me; I thought I'd never forget it. Anyhow, Mr. MacPherson came through one day, and Bob Maguire was there and said, "John, show Mr. MacPherson this instrument panel." It had become a subject of controversy, and Earle MacPherson sat down. I didn't know he had been a fighter pilot. I didn't know anything about his background, really. And he said, "This is great. This is terrific. Why don't we do it?" And so I got the blessing from him. To a designer, here was somebody reacting to your presentation rather than the pedestrian role of the engineer at the time who had to make things work and couldn't take gambles. I understand that now, looking back, but here was an engineer who was used to taking gambles and trying it. So that worked out very fine. He later became vice-president of engineering, I think.*(see Editor's Notes) I think his career went up....
* Editor's Note: MacPherson succeeded Youngren in May, 1952. He retired on May 1, 1958 , as Vice-President, Engineering.
Q: That back lighting effect was very well received, as I recall.
A: It was liked, yes. I remember taking one of the early models out before they were introduced with my wife. We were allowed to drive some of the cars at night. And my mother-in-law was in the back seat, and we were going out Joy Road , and, I guess, I went a little too fast. She could see the speedometer from the back seat. And I figured there is one quick negative.
In 1950 to '52 I was appointed Lincoln-Mercury advanced-styling supervisor. Elwood Engel, working for George Walker, was assigned to do a hot new vehicle. Evidently about that time, the company felt that they needed some show cars--vehicles that they could show to the public that would stir the imagination and predict things to come for the company, and I worked on that whole program from beginning to end with Elwood Engel. I was his right-hand guy. You worked with Elwood, he would create. He threw the clay, he pulled the scrapers, worked the surface through. And when you worked for Elwood, you threw the clay and pulled the surfaces. Did the sketching with him, instrumentation on the interior, went through all the meetings, and it turned out to be a pretty good little car.
Q: Which was the...?
A: The X-100. The Lincoln X-100. I have pictures of it here in my file I can show you later on.
Q: This was the first of the so-called dream cars?
A: That is right, by Ford Motor Company, 1952 to 1955.
Q: Forgive me, what happened to the X-100 or how was it utilized and what eventually happened to it?
A: No, all I know is it was shown around at different auto shows. I don't know if it was really taken around the country or not. I really don't know the ending of that vehicle. I know some things that happened to other vehicles, but that one I don't. [It is in the collection of the Henry Ford Museum .]
In 1952 to 1955: During ‘52, a new building for the design department was being constructed, and that was across Oakwood Blvd, Southwest of the Triple E building. We moved in there in 1953 as a new place to do our designing. In that period, 1952 to 1955, Bill Schmidt was in charge of doing a Futura Lincoln. He had the Lincoln studio. The Lincoln Futura vehicle was developed.* In ‘53-‘54 we developed the Mercury XM-800 and the Mercury XM Turnpike Cruiser. During all this period I worked with Elwood Engel.
* Editor's Note: The Futura, a concept or "dream" car, was exhibited at the Chicago Auto show in 1955.
Q: This must have been an exciting time for you.
A: It was. It was a good challenging time, and there are a thousand stories to be told.
Q: Give us a couple.
A: Well, Mercury XM Turnpike Cruiser. We had an early show, sketch show, showing how it could look, and we developed blackboard drawings and little brochures. The T.C. [Turnpike Cruiser] was picked because it was one of six or seven [design] thoughts, and there's a little paragraph with a little sketch of this T.C. It was a vehicle that took the inside design color and wrapped it out onto the outside of the vehicle. One of the little quips we had about it was there were two small "jato" bottles mounted in the rear bumper so in case you ran out of gas on a turnpike you could just touch these "jato" bottles and get you to the nearest place of safety.
Q: A parenthetical remark. We are in touch with the young man who has the XM-800 in Jackson , Michigan --Dan Brooks--and he also knows who has the XM Turnpike Cruiser.
A: at is right. I know both these people, they have contacted me, and I have turned copies of drawings over to them. In fact, I plan to go out to Jackson to see Dan Brooks with the XM-800.
Q: We're hoping, with yours and Dan's cooperation, if we could get some
kind of an exhibit using the XM-800 and showing how it evolved under your jurisdiction.
A: I have some of the photographs from that time. I wish I could think back to more of the personal stories that were happening at the time. Trying to parallel on the Merc/XM-800--about that time the production Merc was going on, and Jack Reith,* I think, was in charge of programs for Lewis Crusoe.
* Editor’s Note: Francis C. Reith, later Vice-President and General Manager of the Mercury Division.
Q: At the Mercury division?
A: At the Mercury. But they changed so many times now--Mercury division, Lincoln-Mercury division--I just never went back and tried to keep track of it. I can remember in all night sessions when Elwood Engel and I were working on Mercury proposals in competition with Bordinat and DeLaRossa. Elwood had developed this big concave scallop on the quarter panel. Jack Reith would come in at seven o'clock at night after the chores were done at the Administrative Building and sit down on a little stool and talk with Elwood and myself about programs and how programs should be increased and try to fill more spots in the marketplace.
Q: This was their marketing objective in the '50s.
A: That was right--to try and expand. And it was just nice to see the other side of the guy who had to stand up and make presentations. Sit down and talk about design and embracing Elwood's thought. Elwood basically never had design philosophies, he never expressed them, he just said, "This thing's got to be hot. This has got to twist your head, it's going to make them really zing," and all this kind of stuff. But it came out in the clay. Bordinat and DeLaRossa would call his work gorky or awful or junky, and Elwood would feel the same thing about theirs.
Q: Who had set up this competition between you and Elwood and Bordinat and DeLaRossa? You mentioned there was competition for Mercury design proposals.
A: At that time George Walker had not joined the company as a V.P. That wasn't until '55. Prior to that time, Victor Raviolo, Charlie Waterhouse, Carter Burgess, were all in there in a fast-moving parade of engineers in charge of the design activity. And setting off on the side, Mr. Breech had put George Walker. As time went on, Elwood Engel working on Lincoln-Mercury and Joe Oros working on Ford products, began to get the right to have a studio within the building instead of having to do their work on the outside. And so, certain of us from the studios were assigned to these people. It was always a tightrope to walk. You know, don't do too good for those guys. Damn it, this is Ford Motor Company, and what's good for them is good for the company.
I was trying to think of his name--the guy in charge of body engineering. Grebe ... Henry Grebe. He said to me in one meeting, "John, you're giving those guys too much help."
Q: Who'd he mean by that?
A: The Walker people. And I don't remember my reaction, but my mouth wasn't closed, and I gave the talk about taking me off the assignment then. Words to this effect: "I'm working on the product, I'm not working for [George Walker]." It was just a side. Grebe was in charge of body engineering.
Q: And he felt that the stylists were having too much influence?
A: He was having ... No, he felt that the people from Ford styling assigned to George Walker--outside influence--were giving them too much help. In fact, George Walker had some work going on in his own offices down at the New Center Building and had hired some of the Ford designers to go down and work at night on additional vehicles.
Q: But this was all Ford?
A: He was working on Ford products, yes. And so there were problems within the Design Center. These people were not only giving him help but doing it on the outside. I have never participated in that. I figured it was enough working at the company. So that happened during '52 to '55.
During that period, I was assigned to work on the '56 Lincoln. A fellow--a designer--by the name of Joseph [E.] Achor* and myself developed a hard top version on the '56 Lincoln which was a smooth looking thing, and it won the Industrial Designers Institute Award, and we did get credit and, of course, when the award was given, it included George Walker and all the other fellows that were the bosses. Which is fine. That's the way the game is played. Top guys should get the credit. In fact, it should have gone to Henry Ford II. In fact, Joe Achor was one of the principal designers for me on the XM-800, when I worked for Elwood on that.
* Editor’s Note: Anchor retired from Design Surveillance at FMC in 1981
Q: Now, was Engel still here in the mid-'50's?
A: Yes. He was working as a consultant for George Walker. Both he and Joe Oros were not working for the company. They were working as consultants until 1955 when George was appointed, in May-April, Vice President of Design. Then he automatically hired Joe Oros and Elwood Engel to be his chief stylists.
Q: Engel leaves a couple of years from now?
A: Yes, it was in '61, I think. So as far as upheavals, we went from a design department under the aegis of Edsel Ford hiring an aspiring automotive designer who used to be a boat builder, E.T. Gregorie, through a whole series of management changes.
Q: Do you think that was one of the reasons he liked Gregorie was because they both had an affinity for boats?
A: It could have been (they had an admiration) they both had a feeling for the (design) line. And then the design department, shattered by the advent of WW II and then regathering, regrouping and having enough knowledge--Gregorie had enough knowledge as a design manager to know that his products had to be advanced and moving but the talent within, including his own, was not as sharp and not as alert as the G.M. people. Evidently, Breech had seen that at General Motors and said, "Look, we've got to do something," and did and brought in a consultant and then the tug of war.
Q: George Walker?
A: George Walker, the influence. And then, further on, Youngren, I think it was ...Hal Youngren.* He probably knew of Oswald and Snyder.
* Editor's Note: Harold 1. Youngren, a former G.M. engineer, was recruited by Breech from Borg-Warner and came to Ford in 1946. He retired as Vice President of Engineering in 1952.
Q: John Oswald was a Breech G.M. appointee.
A: Another, yes. So this G.M. blood came" in, and those of us that were Ford born, so to speak, many of us dropped off, and many of us stayed and fought through the system and became assimilated in it.
Q: And you are one of the fine examples of that.
A: One of them, yes. In 1953, when we moved to the new building, Design had become one again, but now it had a fighting battle to become identified for its own. George Walker obviously saw, with his friendship with Breech and his performance for Breech, that here was a chance to be a Vice President of Design at Ford. I guess he thought about it quite heavily and, in the meantime, between '52 and '55 the fellows at--[key] designers like Frank Hershey and Eugene Bordinat saw the handwriting on the wall. Although they were working for engineers, they wanted to be working for themselves, to be able to do it. So a big rivalry existed between Hershey and Bordinat. There were struggles to turn out hot products, new cars, fresh, "We can do it. We don't need engineers, and we can be the top dog." So when Walker came in, two things happened: A Vice Presidency of Design was created, the first one, and we were separated from Engineering, and it sort of flattened out these aspirations of Bordinat and Hershey and others, flattened out in that they weren't going to be the Vice President. Now they, too, had--they still had somebody over them, and it was something, but, at least, they were over here fighting their own kind, [a designer] like fish swimming upstream.
Q: Now there was a successful division between them at this point, and
Walker coming in between the Styling and Engineering?
A: Yes, because of the building. It was a geographic division. It was a godsend, so to speak. It was a a building attuned, it was the freshest thing and, of course, Body Engineering had built its new building too.
So there was a geographic division, and rather than being in one building in Triple E, now we had this.
Q: Now that particular division, did it put up a psychological barrier against cooperation between the two disciplines?
A: It might have been there, but there was one by the nature of the business, having a high degree of security. Then there was a control enforced at the front door, and only people approved could get in. So it was there, mentally, and I'm sure the engineers frothed at that. But since that [engineering] division worked for the same top man, they couldn't do anything.
Q: One quick backward look, what happened to Oswald and Snyder during this period? Did they leave in the early '50's?
A: Snyder was moved to Ford of Europe. [I'm] just trying to think of the reason why John Oswald and Snyder left. I know Oswald left the company and went out as a private worker. Snyder was moved to England to work on small vehicles there, and that's when the new group of engineers came in.
So one day in May of 1955, 1 was walking down the hallway coming back from lunch and a door opened near one of the offices and out stepped Elwood Engel and said, "Come on in here, John." Evidently the guard had called and said I was on my way.
In that room was Ben Mills, Elwood Engel, Joe Oros, George Walker and myself. [A high-powered group] George says, "John, this is Ben Mills, and we've decided that we would like to offer you the position of Chief Stylist of Lincoln studio. We know this is a surprise and, as you know, for the last couple of weeks things have been going on." And I said, "Yes." My heart went right down to my toes. I had always been a number two man. I shook hands, and I thanked them very much, walked out of that room, walked down the hall, walked back to my office. I think it was in Lincoln-Mercury advanced [studio where I worked] for Elwood Engel at that time. And sitting in there waiting for me was DeLaRossa and Bordinat. "What happened, John, we hear something's up." And I said, "Well, they've appointed me [to] this [position], and I don't know whether to take it." And Bordinat says, "What's the matter with you, are you crazy?" DeLaRossa said, "Just let them offer that to me." And so the appointments still weren't done. They still had to go through the Edsel [Division] and a few others. So I went home that night. It was a Friday, and I was a mess. I'm saying this for the record. I don't care if you publish it. I just did not have the wherewithal or the tools within my history to prepare me for stepping up and doing things. I had witnessed Bordinat standing up in the show room making presentations to dealers, and Bordinat had complete command of the words, he had complete command of his thoughts as he made presentations. All I could see was this looming thing. I had no problem with the work. It was the role that the Chief Stylist had to play in being the bridge to top management in selling the product.
Sunday afternoon my wife and I sat down, and I said, in effect, "I've got nothing to lose. I guess I can take it, but I'll forever be frightened." So I went in on Monday morning. In the meantime, Elwood was on the phone. He says, "Gees, John, you've gotta take it. I recommended you." I said, "Elwood, I always worked well with you." He said, "That's why you're getting it. Because you've been loyal. We want to help the guys that helped us."
Q: Loyalty was a key factor here.
A: Yes, it was very, very important, loyalty. He said, "I know you can I do it. You won't be alone. I'll be in the studio with you." And I thought to myself, Elwood's method of presentation was not a formal one, it was more of getting to the person on a one-to-one basis, rather than aroomful of people. Elwood was never good at giving formal presentations. and I thought well, gee, here's a guy backing me. George Walker's backing me. I'll try it. So I tried it, and I took the job. And Roy Brown picked up [the] Edsel [studio], Alex Tremulis got in charge of the Advanced Development and Training. I'm trying to think now. Bordinat-what did he have? He had Mercury. Yes, and DeLaRossa worked for him. And there's Bob Maguire. He was in charge of interiors.
Q: How about Joe Oros?
A: Joe Oros took over Ford [Division design]. Now what did Elwood Engel do? Elwood Engel was a roving person through the whole thing.
Q: Swing man?
A: Yes. Now that was the most dramatic part in my career. But it was a time of dramatic change for the Design Department and for the Company. Here were five separate studios all geared up to go. The designer had come into his own. The morale was high.
Q: This was in '55?
A: 1955. It was quite a development. By the same token, William Clay Ford had his design staff, so to speak. And it had started out with John Reinhart. John Reinhart was there working on the Continental [Mark II]. That staff was on-going there. Somehow, Bill Schmidt had left the company.prior to this.
Q: You have him leaving in '54.
A: Yes, '54. He had left before this [reorganization] happened. Earlier, Bill and I sat out at the fishing pond [Triple E Building]. Bill and I always used to eat lunch together. Bill had a business, had started a [design] business on the outside. And I had done a little work with him. And he had invited me to join him to go out in a separate industrial design [firm]. And I told him that I was not cut out for it. I was a company man and [wanted] the security it offered, I was too much of an insecure man. And so I decided to stay. And as it turned out, it was a good move for me.
Q: You had a growing family at this time?
A: Yes, so did he. And I had been great friends will Bill and knew his family and kids, but I wasn't about to leave. Okay, so he had left.
I am going to talk [now] about [the 1950's] being a dynamic era for Ford. George Walker knew the value of having Show cars. We continued doing Show cars from that point on. We put a lot of effort into it. Oh, I was going to mention that the designer had come up in rank. The vice president was up here, and all the people down below him were low salary people. And here was George Walker with a vice president's salary. So Mr. Breech had appointed Victor Z. Brink to be the administration man. And Mr. Brink was the epitome of intelligence, charity, kindness, humility, understanding. I guess I can run out of adjectives. He was a godsend. Breech knew what he was doing when he [asked] Crusoe....
Q: He was a Crusoe appointee?
A: I think he was appointed by Crusoe, yes. Crusoe was a top-notch finance man and regaled us with many, many stories of knowing how to put in headlining in a Fisher Body line and how you hold tacks in your mouth and had very pithy remarks about designs I had done. "What's that, John, a guppy's anus?" On and on. He was just so wonderful. So, anyhow, here was Victor Z. Brink [who] came in and said, "Obviously, the pay scale gap is too much," and, immediately, Chief Stylists were lifted in level, and everybody on the roll were moved up. And it was very good for some of us.
Q: Our mission with Ben Mills [division general manager] and Will Scott [division plant planner] was to develop a 1958 Lincoln . Then, in that era, bigger is better, longer is better, wider is better, shock the public is better. It was a philosophy to which we designers subscribed. It was referred to as "Detroit Chrome"--"Detroit Wildness" by some people who were into sports cars. We liked jet airplanes, we liked flashiness, we liked power. And that was the kind of spirit [in] which we lived. Some of us who liked to keep the stately trim design off on the side for special vehicles, but the main gut vehicle had to be bold and had to be out there. Harley Copp was an engineer and worked with Bill Ford along with John Reinhart in the new building that they had designed, the Continental building in Allen Park . It is now the Automotive Assembly Division, and they had a studio on-going there. And I only bring in Harley Copp's name because Harley Copp was appointed [chief] engineer to be the third leg of our creative effort. Will Scott was the product planner, Harley Copp was the engineer, and I was the chief stylist for Ben Mills. I received a phone call from Harley Copp who said, "John, you know these product planners, they're just paper pushers, they're not creative people like you and I." He said, "I know Bill Ford, and if you get a design over there, and I get a design, we can get together, and we can get this thing," talking about the new '58 Lincoln . And he had mentioned his performance on the Mark II. And he said he had these meetings, and, "I've been good, and I have the ear of Bill Ford." And I said, "Harley, I don't know that I'll ever have to use your offer, Will and I have gotten along fine. We'll see." I wasn't about to just bring new... And that was one thing that had come in. So there was a little bit of beginning infighting between Reinhart and Harley Copp trying to be meshed in with working with the new Lincoln group. So Mills....
Q: It was a separate division? [Continental]
A: It was separate at that time. But Crusoe had a rough time supporting that separate arm out there financially, and, as we worked on the new '58 Lincoln, Reinhart and his group started to work on a special Continental version of it, and models were being built, and they'd come up with their own proposals of how a '58--and I'm sure Bill Ford was with them. So came the big clash where the '58 Lincoln was selected, and now the Continental group had to make an offshoot (Continental) from it. And it wasn't working, it wasn't working. So we were asked to do an offshoot (Continental) of it.
We came up with a retractable back light, reverse back light, some of these designs, and it was generally agreed that financially it would be a good deal. And it was at that time that Mr. William Clay Ford decided that, along with Lewis Crusoe, E.R. Breech and Henry Ford, that they could no longer support the Continental [Division] off by itself. It had to be brought in under the aegis of Ben Mills, the Lincoln group. And so from a designer's point of view at that time, Reinhart and his group were moved into my studio. And I began to think, well, they'll make Reinhart Chief Stylist. You know, Bill Ford, proven fact, I'm just beginning....
Q: Mark II had been a success?
A: Yes. To my amazement, John Reinhart was assigned to work for me. He was a man earning much more than I was and on [the] bonus [roll]. He had dignity, a very quiet approach, he had a [good] track record, and [was] assigned to work for me. So I sat down and talked to John, and he was very dignified, very nice, we both realized the [awkward] position we were in, [and he] said he'd work for me.
Q: Do you think it caused quite a bit of emotional trauma at that time to have the Continental [Division], in effect, brought in under Ben Mills?
A: Yes, I'm sure it was for Harley Copp who was still hoping that it'd be off on the side, for Reinhart, and for Bill Ford himself.
Q: I believe there was, at that point, [a major interruption] in the career of Harley Copp, as he left shortly after that.
A: Did he leave after that? I'm not sure of the time. He could have.
Q: And Bill Ford, in effect, once the Continental was out, had less of an impact on Lincoln styling at that point, did he not?
A: Well, when they, Crusoe and Breech, made Ben Mills the Vice President in charge of Lincoln, there was some proposal that the Continental entity be off on its own under Bill Ford. But it was shortly after that period--May of '55 or within 6 months--it had been decided to cut [the Continental] off from a financial point of view. That's about all I remember. I know Harley left [Continental] at that time, but I remember him working on the chassis of the '58 Lincoln and being in these meetings and how he would try to take over the meetings from Will Scott.
Will Scott, in my book, can do no wrong. I know he can, but Will Scott had worked for Margaret Bourke White and regaled me with stories about how he had worked in her photo development room and how he was the one that threw away 100 pictures for the one that she allowed to be taken out of the dark room.
Q: He was a production assistant for her?
A: In the photography. He would tell stories about how he was on a Navy boat in a narrow canal, in WW II, and the crew and everybody got so engrossed in shooting ducks as they flew up, that the boat turned ninety degrees. It got stuck in the channel! Will had and has a command of the English language that he could insult me, and it wasn't until I got home that night that I understood what he was telling me. It was that quick wit and the words to go with it, from my point of view, that Will never became president of the company. He was just [too] sharp, but he became a great help to Henry Ford II.
Q: He was a special favorite of Henry Ford. I think he's still with the Ford Motor Company.*
* Editor's Note: Will Scott retired in 1987 as Vice-President for Government Relations.
A: Yes, he is. Just a great guy. So, he was the product planner, and working for him was a couple of assistants who came in during that time. One was a guy by the name of Don Petersen, another guy was Bob Graham. So we worked on Lincoln , and as we got down to about b or 5 model proposals for the '58 Lincoln , we were doing the exterior and the interior, simultaneously and having these shows on and on. Don Petersen came in one day representing Will Scott, and as we were going down these models, we had six of them lined up with proposals on either side. Elwood Engel was there, George Walker was there, Crusoe was there, Breech wasn't there. And as I was reviewing each side of these models, we got to model #5, and Don Petersen said kind of loudly, "Well, that's typical. They do everything except what you ask of them."
Q: What was his position at this time?
A: He was working for Will Scott, and they had asked for a specific design, and I said, "I didn't forget it, we just haven't gotten to the other model yet." He shut up, and from that moment on, we were friends. He was just so frustrated as a product developer does get with a creative designer type of thing. They want to be sure that their entity is presented, too. Or their thoughts are presented.
Q: Their input at this point was what, as product planners?
A: Market information to support of the designs that we were showing, being sure that engineering let us have technological advances in putting things together. Like, we would propose something like a frameless upper door. And engineering was for a one-piece door, let's say, because of production line things. But a two-piece door caused some problems. Well, the product planners would sit in meetings with engineering and us and manufacturing and try to ferret out the problem and, if a problem was solvable, what did it cost in the way of tools? So their job was, I guess--Bordinat and DeLaRossa don't like this simile or comparison--but I figure the product planner is much like the conductor of an orchestra. I may play the best violin in the world and have my own solos, but it's going to take that conductor to be sure I get a chance to do it. That's the way I looked at the product planner all my life at Ford.
Q: Overall coordinator?
A: Overall putting things together; the guy that stood up and said, "We have a package," to Mr. Ford. We put the thing together. Or did it to Mr. Iacocca, so Mr. Iacocca would know. He'd cover all the bases. Iacocca would go to Henry [III and sell the program. So they played a very important role.
The human part of the story of big man, little guy: I told you about my apprehensiveness of becoming a chief stylist. I didn't let anybody in the design center know about this. But it was kind of apparent. But, one day, we had a meeting on the '57 Lincoln . I had inherited the '57 Lincoln from Bill Schmidt who had put these gargantuan fins on this '57 job, and he took his beautiful '56 Lincoln creation and put these God-awful fins from the Futura on it.
Q: Oh, he'd gotten that from the Futura.
A: He'd gotten that from the Futura. Evolution, you know, of concept design. These things went several feet up in the air. Great big hunks of chrome around the back.
Q: Had that become a cliché in General Motors and Chrysler cars by this point?
A: All fins and gorkiness. Oldsmobile, or Buick, had five bars of chrome running along its quarter panel, and somebody went along and put musical notes on them. And, I think, Oldsmobile had an oval mouth and somebody put rolled eyes on the headlights and a tongue hanging out. We were all guilty. So, anyhow, I looked at this 157 Lincoln and said, "My God, I don't like this. What can I do?" So I talked to Elwood, and I shortened the wrap-around chrome below the rear fins by about two feet. Just had them tucked in from the back. I brought down the top fins by about 7-8 inches, and tried to clean it up from my point of view. Anyhow, that was done and approved in a few short months. Now came the trim program.
It was my responsibility to present to the top management a program, and I mean top management--Henry Ford, Breech, Crusoe, Ben Mills and all the others attended. And they would sit there as the Chief Stylist would go through these boards of color proposals, color chips, color treatments, and this was my first presentation. As luck would have it, it was not in the showroom, we had it in the first studio in the building. I had the draperies pulled open out onto the courtyard and had some exterior color models moved up there. I hadn't done any of this, I had inherited it. So it was my job to sell it. I couldn't bring any [personal] influence [to bear] on it. So I got all the boards up, and I rehearsed with my trim and color people, and I could feel myself tightening up and oh, my God, I'm gonna faint, I'm going to get sick. And so I was sitting there, Dave Ash was along side of me. We were both smoking cigars, Dave Ash was my executive designer, and in the door walks Mr. Breech, alone and five minutes ahead of the group.
Q: A typical ploy of his, perhaps?
A: I don't know--there was a meeting going on of some kind in the conference room because they'd all go up there and meet first, and the agenda for the day would be discussed, and Will Scott's group might have been up there making their presentations and said, "Now, let's go back to the studio." I got a phone call from them saying, "John, you'll be on in a couple of minutes." Anyhow, I was shaking, just so awful. But I still knew I had to do it. Anyhow, in comes Breech, he walks [briskly] across the floor and said, "How are you doing today, John?" And I said, "Mr. Breech, not so good. I'm nervous as hell." He says, "Well, how short a time can you do that presentation?" I said, "I can do it in about 7 minutes." And they usually take a half hour. He said, "Well just let me pick it up." And he said, "Don't worry about it," he says, "You'll do fine, John." And so I walked over, the other group trooped in. And I was standing out here in front of God and everybody with all the black boards and stuff, and they're all seated there chatting, joking, and stuff, and Breech says, "Well, gentlemen, we're here to [and he looked at his watch, I remember that clearly] look at the 1957 Lincoln interior program, and John Najjar will make the presentation. But I must tell you, now," he said, "I had a general look at it, and it's pretty good, and I have a couple of meetings to go to and, John, would you shorten it up for us?" I got [going] on that presentation. I don't know how I got through it, but I did get through it, and that gave me the strength. And after I'd finished it, I said, "Mr. Breech, that ends the total presentation, if there are any details...." He said, "No, no, I think it's perfectly fine. Don't you , don't you like the program, men? Well, yes, yes, fine." Now, I only say that because the memory of the man is so great to me.
Q: He was very good with that sort of thing?
A: Yeah, he showed that there was a human touch. And I can remember the time Henry Ford II, himself, walking down the hall, and I was not a part of his entourage, walking the opposite way, would look over and say, "Hello, John." And remember my name, and I just, oh...I'd never leave Ford after that kind of thing.
Anyhow, the Lincolns were developed along with the Edsels. And it was a good time, at least we thought we had the world by the tail with the longest, lowest, widest vehicle. And as it turned out, the Lincoln didn't fare so well on the marketplace. It had a lot of innovations on it that are still good to this day. But the general flair of the appearance was too much for a public who had started to change tastes at this time.
Q: And that point in time was what?
A: The year 1957, when the vehicle was introduced. And, in the Fall of '57, during that period we created two advanced Lincoln cars that were supposed to be show cars but destined to be simply fiberglass models and finally destroyed. They were called the Diplomat and the La Galaxie.
Q: Did your photographs survive of the Diplomat? We have pictures of the Galaxie, I think.
A: Yeah, the Diplomat. The name may have survived on a later car because Dave Ash was working for me. And we, at that time, were both nuts on astronomy.. We were picking the names and things of this nature, and that's where the name came from. And, as I said, we had gotten the award on the '56 Lincoln formally presented.
In August of 1957, I was called into an office and told that I was no longer Chief Stylist of Lincoln .
Q: Who told you this?
A: Bob Maguire. The company organization was changing, and I'm trying to think now whether it was... Bob McNamara* was, at that time, getting more and more involved in the styling. Yes, Bob McNamara came in, and I don't know whether we had an organizational change or not, but Don DeLaRossa was appointed to be Chief Stylist of Lincoln, and I was pulled out to be in charge of Advanced Body Development which fell under Bob Maguire. Bob Maguire was another one of those Will Scott [type] idols that I had. Bob Maguire always had a gentle soul about him, but he could make a man work 24 hours a day and smile. And I had the good fortune of working for Bob Maguire for many, many years, and he was just a darn good leader. And he'd listen to innovative ideas and [was] always encouraging, but if you didn't do well, he was the first one to tell you. So, he had this hard task to tell me and did a good job of it.
* Editor's Note: Robert S. McNamara was Ford Division Vice President at this time and later (1960) was named President of Ford Motor Company.
Q: What seemed to have been the motivation? Was there...?
A: I asked. I said, "Why," and they wouldn't give me an answer. Ben Mills came over to my office and sat down and said, "John, I just want to tell you my philosophy." And he went on to talk about many things which included how he, too, would go nuts if he tried to figure out what was beyond the stars. We got, you know, "deep," he was being very kind. He said, "I just wanted you to know that (and the purpose of this visit), there is nothing you did when you were working for me that would cause me to suggest that you should be removed. It was nothing of that nature."
Q: Was it a shift of...?
A: I don't know...it couldn't have been Breech. I don't know whether it was Henry Ford II, or whether it was anything I had said to him. I don't think so, because we were in meetings [together] later on, as it will turn out, when I had charge of Industrial Design, and [design] influence on the Guest Center . I designed the Guest Center and other things. It wasn't him. So, I don't know what had happened. I don't know whether it was George Walker, who was known to keep a big book in his desk drawer with all the pictures of his employees and a big grease pencil and would put an X through faces that he didn't like.
Q: Speaking of that, do you think that Walker and Bordinat and DeLaRossa have gained ascendancy at Lincoln at this point? You mentioned that DeLaRossa succeeded you.
Q: Do you think that the Walker/Bordinat/DeLaRossa troika was moving into Lincoln at this point?
A: Not Walker . Walker was Vice President.
Q: But Bordinat and DeLaRossa were protégés of his.
A: Yes. No, no, no. No, enemies.
Q: Oh, really?
A: Oh, yeah. Walker, Bordinat and DeLaRossa were never friends. They were always, you know, platonic friends. No, I don't know, I really can't say to this day. All I can do to pin it back is that I was not efficient enough or had said something or, you know. It wasn't Ben Mills. I'm sure it wasn't Henry, it wasn't Breech, it wasn't Crusoe.
So, I don't know. The only thing I can think of was George Walker had a tendency to not like--he wanted people who had style. And, you know, I fought the battle of bald headedness, shortness all my life. And I could fall back into it very easily. And I was sure it was none of that. It was just something....
Q: But DeLaRossa did succeed you?
A: He did succeed me. And so, the way it was put in the announcement was that John Najjar was appointed to the important job of Advanced Body Development, blah, blah, blah, and succeeding in that position. This very tasteful way wasn't, you know, [that] he was kicked out. They did it as Ford would do it. But, as luck would have it, I could fall in a bucket of stuff and come out smiling. And I got over the personal stuff, the business of turning in your company car, the business of walking down the hall and (I wanted to just run from Ford Motor Company at that time) of seeing friends or people that, you knew darn well some of them were saying, "Well, they finally got to it at last," or other people saying they're sorry. Yet you had to do it, you had to go into work every day.
Well, there was a room which was run by--the name will come to me in a minute--it was a corporate planning room, the famous Room 138 which was a studio, and I was put in there. I forget the name of the fella, but I'll think of the name in a moment. ["Buzz" Grisinger] A white-haired designer, [who had] worked on the Tucker car, no--on the ["Dutch"] Darrin cars, worked on the Kaiser-Frazer, he had been in charge of it, just getting started.. He was moved out of the department, and he went to work for DeLaRossa. I was put in charge of Room 138 whose job it was to look at corporate planning under Maguire and make presentations on a timely basis to Robert McNamara and others and to George Walker as to where we are, where we're going, interchangeable body counts, panel counts. At that time, Stu Frey* (see editor's note) was assigned to work for me, and in that room we endeavored, not only to set out new style, new appearance, but new mechanical innovations and also to educate Mr. McNamara on some of the complexities of creating vehicles. So we went into meetings, and it wasn't just his favorite way of doing things. Say, there are five salient points, number 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and Mr. McNamara would know how many points there were. He would always start from the highest number and work down. Incidentally, off on a diversion, later on when he was appointed Secretary of Defense , I sat down and wrote him a letter, and I said, "We were at lunch one day, talking about him, and I'll bet now instead of listing five salient points from five to one down, he was going 10, 9, 8, 7 for blast-off and good luck in your future things."
Q: Ever get a reply from him on that?
A: No, not ever. Not even an acknowledgment. Didn't expect one. Anyhow, this Room 138, this again was a challenge to me, of Ford Motor Company stepping up to its responsibilities and starting to move out. And the Edsel was off in the wings and not doing so hot, but it was hopeful, it would count.
A: In August, '57 to '58.
Q: You mentioned Roy Brown, parenthetically, he had moved into the Edsel studio at this point?
* Editor's Note: Stuart M. Frey is current  Vice President, Technical Affairs at Ford Motor Company.
A: Yes, he was made Chief Stylist [May 1955], and I knew that before I was appointed. The big question was who would get Lincoln . They never considered my bid. [Laughter]
So, anyhow, [in] this Room 138, we had the formal reviews of cars and details. And this room was about 40 feet high and had black boards from floor to ceiling. It was 125 feet long, it was 35 feet wide. Each studio section of a design center had foldable doors that would [move] back and forth like an accordion so you could section off each place. Well, we had this one section with the black boards on either side of the room going floor to ceiling, and we would fill that room with Program 1, Program 2, Program 3. Program 1 would consist of a small car, a standard car, a medium car, a luxury car, specialty cars, and these would be rendered in 3/8th scale, 3/8th to an inch scale on black paper and posted horizontally the length of the room for Program 1. Above it would be Program 2 going through the same gamut, Program 3. Each of these programs would have individual interchangeability programs, different body dimensions and wheelbase dimensions. As McNamara or Crusoe would come in and sit down, I would have to stand in front of the blackboard and on Program 1, Maguire would introduce me and say, "We have this high a degree of interchangeability, this many panel counts." So you can see-understand the complexity of trying to assimilate this information in a couple of minutes.... "Mr. McNamara has a half hour, John, forty-five minutes, and these are the things on his agenda." So, Mr. Maguire and I would work like Trojans to get the program together. Mr. Walker was not famous for his ability to stay awake during meetings, let alone to remember the details of panel count outside of design. We prepared 3x5 cards of each program, and in the upper left-hand corner it would announce Program 1, panel count 255, total. So, it means we would have
to buy 255 tools. On the sheet metal panel counts Ford, Mercury, Lincoln Edsel, blah, blah, blah, which panels would be used, interchangeability. And George [ Walker ] would have these little cheater cards in front of him, in case he had to rely upon them. I would have the cheater cards as I went through the program to outline the program to Mr. McNamara. And he, of course, would say, "Okay, you have 257 panel count in this program, 200 panel count on this one, what is the difference between Program 2 and Program 3?" Bing, bing, bing, and you'd have to be ready. Well, that's where Stu Frey was such a help and had a real good mind, and he always referred to them as those [management] yo-yos. And Stu was taller than I was, obviously, and always breathed down on me and, you know, I would stand aside and say, "Stu, I've got to have this thing. What is the panel count, what do I think?" And we would have to get some agreement from "Body" that what we were showing in there was half way plausible. That was no mean task. So, anyhow, this went on, and we developed programs where we would show, for instance, the hard top on the vehicle could look like this. We would do small drawings that would overlay these 3/8th drawings to show how unique the different roofs could look throughout the line by just making roof panels. And then we would move to why is the hardtop, four door hardtop so hard to do. Why are these engineers having problems? So, I showed a blackboard and showed how the door mechanism worked and how it turned and went through the whole thing. And he (McNamara) couldn't understand why we had to have a "horn" on the top of the rear door. The horn on the top of the rear door was a space for the rear door glass to move its first action into so it could drop and be swallowed into the door. Very detailed. Once I showed him that graphic moving, he got it. He said, "I understand it now, for the first time I understand it." I just melted, I was so happy.
Q: This was McNamara?
A: This was McNamara. And then we wanted to know the effect of turnunder. About that time, body panels [cross-section] were moving from--as evolution shows, first they were vertical, the distance from the bottom of the door to the top of the door, and, as time went on, they started to take the shape of the letter C. When that door swung open, the top of the glass intruded into your entry way, and the engineers were saying this hardtop won't work in the Mercury studio because it has too much tumblehome. And tumblehome is the area above the belt where the greenhouse, as it's called, from its base tips in at the top from the belt rail to the drop rail. Tumblehome is how much it tips in. It was picked up from old sailing terms with the poop deck and the tumblehome above it. And so I figured there should be a good way to show McNamara. And as I didn't have time to show him an automobile, I took a portion of a blackboard. It was a large board panel, sixteen feet long and about seven feet high. I took a door panel made out of cardboard with glass on it, and I put it off of that blackboard projecting to its open position and cut a hole through the blackboard and represented the entry way into the thing and put a car seat on the other side. We pointed out to Mr. McNamara this is the actual entry before any "bucks" were built. Based on that, he says, "I can get in that," and that was the way that thing was--it was a quick, short--that was the task of this studio to get quick fixes of engineering direction or anything that Mr. McNamara wanted to know about. To discuss corporate interchangeability plans and working with product planners.
Q: This is a fascinating concept. Was it unique at Ford or was it used throughout the industry?
A: I don't know... I never knew how G.M. worked. I didn't have any feeling that Chrysler or General Motors did this at all.
Q: Was this the beginning of the advanced studio as well as corporate planning?
A: It was the beginning for the advanced studio as there had already been an advanced studio....
Q: Yes, but I mean in this particular context.
A: It was a combination Lincoln-Mercury body development studio.
Concurrent with this program, Maguire, who had a brilliant mind, said, "Let's analyze and forecast what direction is General Motors going, what direction is Chrysler going, what direction are we going? John, let's work up a program." So, John Najjar sat down with a group of guys, and I figured that G.M. was taking the role of the oval design, a cake of soap. Chrysler was taking the shape of a dart and Ford, I hated the word, was rectilinear. It was a box. It was an elongated box. And so we took these vehicles' drawings, and we developed a total of something like fifteen blackboards. Mind you, blackboards were about 24 feet long, on rollers mounted on each end and about 7 feet high, built of wood and two faced. And they were truly blackboards, painted black. On these blackboards were mounted the story that we were to tell. The G.M. story was this: it has traditionally built these kind of cars, and we predict this car in the future will continue to have this roundness but will get some new straight lines in it. Chrysler will continue to pursue its dart and could look like this. Ford should continue its strong horizontal emphasis but will begin to pick up a softness, if only in the rear view or getting "tumblehome." We presented these boards and did the thing, and it was, again, an "understanding" tool, and I think it helped our management to understand the process.
In the meantime, Maguire had under him about two or three other studios, small studios, in which were developed the Cardinal, which met an early demise. I worked on that program with Elwood [Engel].
Q: I was sorry that that never got under way.
A: So was I, but it was good for the Mustang. [The pony-pack engine was used on Mustang I.]
The Avion, which had been developed by my predecessor in the Room 138 studio, Buzz Grisinger, he had started the Avion, and he was a good designer. He was good at flowing lines. I'm a paste together, a plodding designer, but Buzz Grisinger, bless his soul, was able to design in watercolor, design in clay and loved flowing, graceful lines. The word Avion, of course, means bird-like. It was a nice little car, it was a sweetheart. But I inherited that, and I was always careful, too, in my career to give credit to people that deserve the credit and did the job. Whether it was good credit or bad credit, I couldn't care less. Also in that period, August '57-'58, we did a floating train concept with Mr. Andy Kucher.* He was V.P. for engineering and research. Mr. Kucher would come over many times and talk to us about philosophy. His dream was to build a train system--a rail system from Metropolitan Airport to downtown Detroit , quick feeder. We developed it. I still have some drawings of it. Turbo-prop driven planes we also discussed. When we began working on the train concept with him, it began a continuing relationship with him into other projects. I guess I'll move on into this. In March, 1958....
* Editor's Note: Andrew A. Kucher, a former G.M. and Bendix engineer, was appointed the first director of Ford Motor Company's Scientific Laboratory in 1951.
Q: Let me interrupt here, if I may, John. This input of Kucher, on the research level, did that continue?
A: Yes. I'll point that out here. Kucher was interested in putting a visible presentation to his ideas and the staff's ideas, [especially] at the Design Center as we became a vice-presidency type level. George Walker said, "Like any good organization, we should have a certain percentage off on the side for our 'playground,' untouched by product planners. We'll do what the product planners want, we'll do what the division vice-president wants, but we've got to have an [research] area up here or we're going to have inbreeding. We won't have anything." I don't know how much of the budget was pulled across [reserved]. Ten percent or eight percent, but it amounted to several million dollars. Whoever was in charge at the time, Bordinat or Walker--it was Walker , obviously, had the capability of earmarking certain funds to be used any way he sees. So if there was a germ of an idea out there someplace, Walker could throw money toward it and so invited Kucher in.
Okay--March '58 through November '61, my title was Executive Stylist, Advanced Tractors, International and Canadian Products. And Elwood Engel was still a mentor at that time. On the International and Canadian products, we had two phases of the Canadian. Elwood and I would develop front ends and body side treatments for the Canadian products. And then we would hie ourselves over to Toronto , and we would make presentations to Mr. Sales. I hope I've got the right time period, but it did happen. I remember going up into the board room. I'm not sure where it was in Toronto . The sales [staff] would be there and several merchandising people, and I remember putting the drawings up on the mantel of the fireplace and going through the presentations. We would sell the management on our concepts, and then we would come back and clay model them and work on them. Then the Canadian management would come over for a show. It was one of the accounts, so to speak. That was the beginning of Industrial Design, where the Design Center was doing more than just feeding its own North American things, we were starting to get out. We also did the advanced tractors. They'd send down a tractor from the Tractor area. We'd put sheet metal on it and front ends on it, and we developed the tractors there. Any international work that came up we were asked to contribute to, but the Advanced was always near and dear to the heart. During that period we developed the two-wheel Gyron and the Levacar.
Q: Which was one of Andy Kucher's...?
A: That is right. Andy showed us the floating pad and how he developed the idea from the inverted tea cup while doing dishes for his mother. He was drying dishes, or doing dishes for his mother, and the tea cups were wet, or the coffee cups were wet, and he'd put them on the tray, and he noticed that they just slid along, frictionless. It began [with], why is it frictionless? Is it because of the liquid? Or because of hot air? Why is it? That started him off on that study of frictionless movement. He had a man working for him by the name of Jay--I think that was his last name--who was doing the work on this Leva thing. Leva pad is what they called it. So, they took the Leva pad, and I had a young man working for me by the name of Gail Halderman, and Elwood [Engel] was my boss. I don't remember where Maguire was in this period, I think he was still around exerting control. I might have been working with Elwood for Maguire. Gail and I and Elwood came up with this short bit. We found that the leva pad really couldn't lift a lot. If we had three pads the size of a dinner plate, they were thick, about an inch and a half thick, and they were made of--I'd like to say aluminum, but I think they were made out of steel, machine steel. They had real fine orifices in the bottom of them--pinholes--and coming into the top of them is where the air would be injected. Jay brought over the pad and showed us about it. We figured out that, well, okay, we visualize a train. We figured that, first of all, to have emphasis it should [be automotive and] carry a person. It shouldn't be just a toy. Jay had developed a scooter with two of these pads, and he stood on this scooter, and you could be propelled. We took three of these pads and set it out two in the rear and one in the front following the basis of a human sitting down, broad base and thin.
Q: What was the air coming from?
A: From a compressor. We also found out that we could move that thing simply by blowing it. So, we got a squirrel cage motor, I don't know if it was out of a truck or from a heater, and we mounted it behind the [seat]. We drew a "package" so to speak. Jay agreed with us, yeah, it could work. So we decided on a clay model. I have a whole stack of development photographs to that showing how it worked. It was approved by Kucher. We made the fiberglass canopy open and found out that it couldn't go by itself. No way could it carry its own compressed air, no way was there any way to control it unless you put air jets out, so we decided to tether it. It was tethered on a circle about 30-35 feet in diameter. It was tethered on a ten or eleven foot arm, and in the center of the tether it rolled on a flat disk, if you can visualize that. It was shown at the Rotunda* [where] a special raised dais was made. It was raised about three feet off the floor on this 30-35 foot diameter track. There was a track about thirty inches wide for this vehicle to ride on, and it was smooth. It had to be real smooth because there were no springs in the vehicle, and it shouldn't thump. Out of the center of this thing, like the turntable of a record player, was a spindle and off of that spindle came the power hose out to the side of the Levacar, like an umbilical cord plugged into a side. The operator would get up there and talk about it, get into it, close it, and it would silently whisk its way around, and as the pressure stopped, it settled down on its pads. It was a good success--a striking demonstration. At the Ford Rotunda they had little boxes of a model of a Levacar. A little fiberglass, plastic model was made of it.
* Editor’s Note: The Ford Rotunda was a showcase for Ford cars in Dearborn from 1936 to 1962 when it was destroyed by fire.
Q: Did you save one?
A: Yes, I did until about ten years ago when I gave it to one of the kids. To make it work, you blew into a little mouthpiece, and a little hose went down to the model, and the air pressure would lift it off the table. It was a good spin off.
Anyhow, it was a challenging thing, and, about that period, Alex
Tremulis, who had worked with Tucker on the development of the car and had also worked at Wright Patterson Field [was in Ford advanced design]. Alex was one of the pioneers of designing cars. He was a wild Dr. Huer * type, uncontrollable. He'd go off on design tangents, and so it was decided to put Alex Tremulis out of where he was and put him into the area with John Najjar and have him work for John. This was an insult to Alex having him work for a "car mechanic" rather than a true automotive designer. Alex started to fool around with a gyroscope, and I'd hear this sound, inbetween making his air brush sound like the squeal of a siren coming down off the high pressure air and manipulating the thing. Alex would also get on our local P.A. and make sounds like a race car enough to drive any normal supervisor nuts. But, anyhow, Alex was good. He kept playing with his gyroscope. I said, "Alex, you know, what the hell good is that?" He said, "Well, it gives stability, John." He said, "You could put it in a car, and it would be hard to turn over." "Yeah, that's good, that's good." He said, "But, it can stand by itself. Look what I've done." I said, "Yeah...."
* Editor's Note: Mr. Najjar notes that this was a character in the Buck Rogers comic strip of the 1930's.
Q: I assume he had a model.
A: He had a little scale thing. [I said], "I'll tell you what, Alex, I'm going to put Syd Mead with you," he was the hottest designer and still is, "and he will develop the design. We're going to do this for our record. We can't have you walk around running a gyroscope in your hand, off an air hose and have it, you know, have troubles with it. We're going to make a presentation, that's the name of the game inside this corporation, and when you get your budget money approved, then you build your vehicle." So Syd Mead, bless his soul, sat down and did a beautiful booklet of the gyroscope model. I don't know where it ended up, but I sure wish I had it. A series of 12 drawings [were made], and I got Maguire in, got Bordinat in to look at the idea. I said, "Alex, why don't you generate the gyroscope." Alex got the gyroscope going with the air hose, and the damn thing came out and hit him in the shirt--it showed it could work. Alex sat down then. I got up, and I made the presentation. I said, "Syd has made the drawings, and Alex created the concept, and we could build a vehicle like this." Bordinat said, "Well, oh, okay, let's try it."
So, we started the clay model of this thing and got it going. I remember going to, I think it was George Haviland*, and asking him to contact Minneapolis Honeywell to find out if there was such a gyroscope that we could install on a full-size vehicle. George came back and said yes, there was. It would cost 60,000 dollars, and it would keep a two-wheel vehicle upright. It was [mounted] on a B52 bomber platform for stabilizing a gun, something of this nature. It would hold a two ton truck, or whatever it was, vertically, up on the edge of a razor blade. We couldn't get the money. We figured that was too much money to spend. So, the Gyron was developed with two wheels and had two idler wheels out on the side. The theory was, as it got down from its speed run, got down to about 5 miles an hour, two additional wheels would come down and stabilize the vehicle so it could drive and turn.
* Editor’s Note: Public Relations supervisor in the Design Center
Q: Do you have a drivable vehicle at this point?
A: No, just a designer's dream of this far-out vehicle. We were struggling to get it approved to be an operable vehicle, but no way was that in the wind. So, I was trying to lobby to show it [operable] in full size. No sense in taking it to an automobile show and have it sitting on the floor. The idea would be to see it fully balanced. So I built a model, a little tenth-scale model. I don't know what happened to it, I wish I still had it. The model was setting on a horizontal glass plane and appeared to be balancing on its two wheels. I projected wires straight down from the wheels of the vehicle through the glass plane on which I was showing it. Below it, I mounted weights so that the vehicle, no matter which way you tilted it, always came back to vertical because of the counter balance weight below it. The theory was to build a full-size display stand this way and say it could work and have the wheels roll. The wheels would be dummy wheels split, longitudinally, so that the supporting beam would go down between the wheel into the support below. That [the idea] never flew. In fact, I doubt if we ever showed it at anything other than local shows. I don't remember it being taken nationwide. Bill Ford came in one day while we were doing the model, walked around it and looked kind of amused at it and said, "For the life of me, I can't see why you'd have a vehicle with only two wheels and two tires." I thought in my brain, there's Firestone, you know, four wheels or two wheels. I said, "Mr. Ford, we also have the two idler wheels on the side." He walked out shaking his head laughing. Couldn't convince him of the thing.
About that time Elwood Engel was assigned to participate in the search for a design theme for the '61 T-Bird and Lincoln . Elwood had a downstairs studio. Somebody gave it the name "Stiletto". * I don't remember it that way, but I just referred to it as a basement studio. Halderman was working for me, came down there with me and Elwood. Bob Thomas was on the project as a studio engineer. We started to do this design downstairs in competition with Bordinat and DeLaRossa up in the Lincoln studio and Joe Oros down in the Ford studio.
* Editor's Note: Colin Neal says that "Stiletto," meaning "a quick jab in the posterior with a sharp instrument," was his coinage and that the studio was meant to be a good.
Q: You still had this competitiveness setup?
A: Oh yeah, we had to keep that going.
Q: To keep the creative juices flowing?
A: Yes. If Joe was doing something, Elwood knew that Joe was going to get credit for it. He figured, I'm working here, I can do a car, just because he can, and Bordinat can do a car better than he can, and so it came [out] that way. Incidentally, Colin Neal was also assigned to the studio. He later went to Chrysler. He had left [Ford of] England as its chief stylist and had come to America . He had to quit over there to get hired here.
Q: Ford of England ?
A: Ford of England . As we were working, there was a great pressure to get these models done. We would work from seven in the morning to ten o'clock at night, then drive all the way home and come back and get these models going. Well, we had this one model going, and, boy, it was a real zinger. We were able to get the lower body outboard and the greenhouse inboard. There was about five inches of space. It just looked too good to be true. Finally, one morning, Robert Thomas, who was the engineer, came to me and said, "John, I don't know how to say this, but I goofed." What he had done, we had a borrowed "bridge." Our clay models were done in a mechanical contraption called a bridge which permits us to measure the model dimensions. He had misjudged the overall width of the vertical bridge by five inches on either side. The model was five inches too wide, and we were facing this show. So we had to work throughout the night and the next day to get that model "in" five inches. Elwood was so mad.
Elwood had a good knack, he always told everybody he was a baseball pitcher, thus had a great love of making up a clay ball and hurling it across the room. And he hurled many clay balls that night. I got my fanny reamed. He says, "You're the guy in charge of this thing, and you can't blame it on anybody." I said, "I don't blame it on...it was an honest mistake." He says, "Well, correct the honest mistake." Anyhow, we got it fixed, and I want to say McNamara, who was it? George Walker and whoever was in charge at that time, the '61 ...McNamara, yeah, it would have been, he would have still been there. He liked the looks of the model downstairs which was our studio. He liked the flow of the front end.
We all had the same task. Engineering had developed the heart of the vehicle. At that time, the heart of the vehicle was the column, the plenum chamber, the cowl where the instrument panel hooked in. It was the core, and all of us had the same task to use that same core. So, there was some similarity of task, general shape of the windshield. But, the flow [of] the fender or the body side, the tail end, was all up to the individual stylist. That model was picked. From that model (it was designed as a Continental) Bordinat's task was to make it feasible from that point on. It was taken from our preproduction area and given to Bordinat. Joe Oros was required to take that theme and develop it into the Thunderbird. So the basic theme of an airfoil, wing-shaped hood and front bumper through the center part of the vehicle flanked by two vertical blades was established. And they picked it up from there.
Q: Was it utilizing the Continental at all?
A: Yes, it was almost taken verbatim from the 1961 Continental. Bordinat had to thicken up the tail end blades to get taillights in them. But the theme for the tail end of that '61 Continental was developed by Colin Neal. He did a sketch on his board. I picked up that sketch and showed it to Elwood and said, "Boy, this [is] such a natural, Elwood." We put it on the vehicle, and it rang. Colin never got the credit for it.
And along about that time also, an opportunity came up for Gail Halderman to be a supervisor. We called him into the office, and he said, "I don't want it. I don't want the responsibility." I saw in him me, and I told him the story about me and told him, "Look, Maguire will be there, Elwood will be there, I'll be there--just do it. Your job won't change, you'll just be given a new title. It's just our way of giving you more money, just look at it that way." And, he took it.
Q: He's done well ever since....
A: Yes, he has. He's always been a good guy.
From November '62-'62, and I think Elwood Engel left in '61, and there was a change. Maguire took over the area again, and I was an executive stylist for him, called the Preproduction and Advanced Studio. About that time, we developed the Hustler truck, which was an advanced truck, and and I have some catalogues of it. It was a two story truck. It really went up in the air [tall]. You had to use a ladder to climb up into the driver compartment. It was an operable vehicle. It worked very fine. It wasn't my concept, it had been started before I got in that studio by whoever was in the Advanced Studio.
Q: You're still in Room 138?
A: No. Room 138 disbanded when McNamara left, which was in '60.
Q: In November of '60?
A: Yes. I think that was disbanded.
So, I'm now out into November '61 and '62. Oh, back up a little bit. We received a team award for the design of the Lincoln from the Industrial Designers Institute. Of course, George Walker, Elwood Engel, Bordinat, DeLaRossa, Ford, everybody, had to be in it. I was a member of the I.D.I. I believed in the designers getting together, but there was too much of an educational trend to the I.D.I. If you didn't get a degree, you weren't a designer. I never had one, but I appreciated the people that had it. But by the same token, don't lock me out. So there was this fight going on within I.D.I. between the educators and the people that designed. I was in it to merge, to bring it together. Consequently, they had these contests. Nobody from automotive had ever entered these things. I was the first one on the '56 Lincoln to enter us and same for the '61. So here I am trying to be honest about who participated in the design of the '61 Lincoln . I remember George Walker saying, "Those guys didn't have anything to do with it," meaning Bordinat and DeLaRossa. "Yes, they did, George. It's the production vehicles that can get the award, not the advanced." Anyway, we got that, and that was good. In the meantime, during that period, '60-'62, I was sent to Europe a couple of times to help out once in '62, I think it was.
Something had happened. Roy Brown....
Q: Had been exiled, I think.
A: Yes, '61 or '62, he had said something on TV. He was interviewed by the local TV guy. During the discussion of it, maybe this story's already recorded, he had said a few things about bumpers are female breasts, bumperguards and phallic symbols, etc.
Q: There was a lot of speculation about the Freudian symbolism in car styling at this time.
A: Yes. I guess that when it was announced... it came out in the paper or on TV or however it was announced and caused Roy to take off. Nobody knew where he was or, at least, professed not. A phone call came from Europe to Bordinat saying we need somebody... oh boy, who was that now? DeLaRossa was over there at the time, and he had to go to Germany to take over on a presentation there. So the call came for John Najjar, specifically, and I remember going into the office and I think, Charlie Baldwin, who used to be a product planner at Ford, worked on the '60 Falcon. Charlie was moved to--at the request of Henry Ford II--to England . Anyhow, here he was, over there, left with Harley Copp, Chief Stylist Roy Brown, who had taken off, had to move DeLaRossa to Germany , and the only guy he knew, that he got along with, was John Najjar. Charlie Baldwin called specifically for me to go over there and sit in, take over. I walked into this place, had a show in two weeks and had to get the vehicles done....
Q: Was this the introduction of the new Ford of England [later Europe ] vehicles?
A: Yes. Taunus. There were the introduction of new vehicles. I remember going through meeting after meeting after meeting. I must be honest, I went to England twice. One time with Elwood to work on vehicles. This was the time of the turmoil. I can't remember the name of the vehicle, but I will later on. We had to get the vehicle done. It was a new one. They were putting innovations of metal stampings from the United States , and our metal stamping engineers were over in England from U.S. They were basic engineers there. I guess we were looked on as a Ford invasion to Ford of England. We got the model done, made the presentations, and they were bought by management. I remember, I was scheduled to stay for a couple more weeks, I said, "DeLaRossa is coming back, and now I just want to go home," So I left. I wanted to bring up that point. Anyhow, I was called into Bordinat's office--saying, "John, you've got to be on an airplane to England tomorrow. They want you." He says, "Charlie has asked for you." I got the feeling when I walked out of Bordinat's office I wouldn't have been his choice. I always had that feeling with Bordinat, "John, I'll tolerate you." We always had a healthy respect for one another. Just wanted that for the record. In case he brings it up, if my name comes up...I was occasionally nervous about my administrative capabilities. Gene helped me out in a meeting once in the early days when I was a chief stylist. Ben Mills, Vice President of Lincoln, at one meeting began to philosophize. He says, "Be mindful of this--our objectives are these," and he laid down all these rules. He laid down objectives for the Lincoln . He put it down, it must have dignity, must be built within costs, must command this... and to listen to all this stuff pouring into my new chief stylist's brain. A voice speaks up on the other end, and Bordinat, in his quiet, selfcontrolled manner, said, "Ben, that's unfair, putting all those objectives that way. How can you have dignity and be gutsy?" He says, "Some of those are just unattainable." I always appreciated his stepping up and helping. He never cut me down, which I loved. And then it happened to be my birthday in November, and there I was in this hotel room in England after a hard day's work, and there was a telegram from Bordinat.. "Happy Birthday, John." It was very thoughtful.
Let's see, where was I? Oh, the Hustler truck. About that time, we started to develop two-passenger vehicles at the request of Iacocca, who had just come into ascendancy. It was a search for doing small vehicles. It was about that time--Elwood had left*--I had come up with this idea of a mid-ship drive on a Mustang I. We had done two or three vehicles, and they had brought in Dan Gurney to take a look at it. He had indicated that they were too heavy, too trucky, too boxy....
Q: Your leading up to the famous episode where Gurney saw your...?
A: That's right.
Q: Can you develop that?
A: What happened was that Maguire and I sat down and talked about these vehicles. Working for me was a man by the name of Jimmy Darden, who had a history of heart problems, and I couldn't press him too much, but he was assigned to me. I had a fellow by the name of Phil Clark in the studio who was a good designer and who later died within a few years of kidney failure. And I had a wonderful [engineer] working for me by the name of Ray Smith. This was a task, and there were two other designers on it. We figured we had to do something. We were working on a heavy clay model in the studio, getting it done. There was a clay modeler in the studio by the name of Joe Siebold, who had been regaling me about midget racing [with] his daughter. I said, "Joe, that's great." I remembered back to the Cardinal program, front-wheel drive engine. Joe Siebold's kids were driving these little, midget racers. I had read in a European book about engines from race cars being placed ahead of the rear axle. It hit me! So I called Joe Siebold over and I said, "Joe, you know about these vehicles." I said, "Would you help me? We've got a front-wheel drive car. Can I take the front-wheel drive and fix up the...?" "Oh yeah, that's no problem, that's no problem." I said, "Could I put that this way?" So I started to do a sketch of it. I said, "Now, what would I put in front?" He said, "Well, you could put an oil cooler up in front to support the nose." I wasn't all that dumb, but I was looking for some rational support. I did the famous full-size drawing of it...side view.
* Editor's Note: Engel had accepted the Vice-Presidency for Design at Chrysler.
Q: This is on brown paper?
A: No, this was on tracing paper. Lines are marked off on it, and I had called...I wasn't sure, it wasn't Roy Lunn, it was another guy, a German guy that worked for Roy Lunn. It wasn't Theylig, it was Hans Gretzel. I asked him if he could get me this engine drawing. He had to get permission to get me the drawing. So I put it on this tape drawing, this line drawing. I showed it to Maguire, and he liked it. He called Bordinat in, and Bordinat liked it, liked the thought of it. And it just so happened that Dan Gurney was around as we were showing the clay model. The comment, again, was that it's still blocky, this type of thing. Bordinat and Maguire showed Gurney this line drawing and a little sketch. There were some sketches above it, and he made the comment, "That's more like it."
Q: Gurney thought this was really something.
A: Yeah, he thought it was more like it. Noncommittal, I guess. So, Maguire came back. We were siting outside, off on one side behind other stuff. I don't think I was privy to that particular meeting. Maguire says, "We got a green light, so go ahead, start."
Q: In other words, Bordinat was impressed by Gurney's...?
A: Reaction to it. He, Bordinat, liked it himself. Sure.
I turned to Ray Smith. Ray Smith had a fertile mind, and many people had stolen the ideas that he germinated in Room 138, such as the swing steering wheel, such as moving [adjusting] pedals instead of people. He was just always inventing crazy, little things. He was a frustrated camper designer. He was always going to leave Ford Motor Company and design campers and never made it.
We started on this clay model, Darden, Ray Smith and I got the armature going, into and out of the shop, started throwing clay. We started to have a series of presentations to Bordinat and Maguire as it went on. Maguire was a great one for listening to names. We gotta have names on this, and he loved musical names, etude and...I have them all written down some place. I can't remember half of them, and so I got off on this. I had the booklet with me. I'd been reading about the Mustang fighter plane. I was a nut for fighter planes--the P-51. I started to look at the name Mustang and wrote it down a couple of times, looked in the dictionary, and I said, "Geez, that's got to be it!" I showed it to Maguire, and he says, "Yeah, that's good." I turned it over to Phil Clark. I said, "Phil, draw some horses," an he drew the horses. It's an American horse, so that's where the red, white and blue came from. And it just seemed to jell.
Q: So, Phil Clark did the original Mustang drawing?
A: That's right. And I have one of the original little metal models of the ornament. There was a Mustang I drawing that Phil Clark did of the ornament. There was a Mustang I drawing that Phil Clark did for us at the time, and it ended up in our employee personnel office. I saw it a few years ago before I left. One guy was visiting Jay Dulls' office, and he was from World Headquarters, and he said, "Gee, I like that drawing." Jay said, "Well, you know, it's our policy to move it from office to office." So, he gave it to the guy at World Headquarters to put in his office. I tried to track it down. Seems like the guy at World Headquarters, whose name Jay can't remember, which I'm surprised at, has it in his home.
So, there were were, we had the clay models. Either Bordinat at lunch or John Breeden heard from Cog Briggs that we really had nothing to show at the 1962 Fall automotive introduction. There was no "bell ringer," and [he] thought they would [be] interested in looking at this. So Misch comes over, and Bordinat starts chatting back and forth.
Q: This was Herbert Misch, Vice President of Engineering?
A: Herb Misch, that's right, and Cog Briggs and Breeden, and we talked about it and talked about it and said, "Can it be made?" "Yeah, we can do a fiberglass model." "Well, we'll need more than that," and Herb and Gene decided it should go hell bent for election. Well, Misch decided to put Roy Lunn on it because Roy had been a previous racing car designer, chief designer. When Maguire heard about it, he said, "Geez, I don't want that little Englishman. I can't stand him." Evidently, we had, and I can't remember the connection, worked with Roy before on stuff. I said, "Well, Bob, you'll like him, he's a musician. He plays the flute." Bob was a musician himself. And, I said, "He's smart." As it worked out, he turned out to be a good guy.
He was the guy assigned the engineering task. He came over and sat down with Darden, Ray Smith and me, and we talked about how things could be done. Here was an engineer that could do things. It wasn't what I'd experienced [in the past] where there was resistance. Here was a guy that put it together. He was used to putting things under shapes and putting--designing for the flow of the thing, the outside surface. He was our mentor all along. So it was a real close effort. Damon Woods was in charge of interiors, and he had Jim Sipple working for him. Jim Sipple was my level as Executive Stylist and did the interior while I did the exterior. Our plans went further than the final Mustang I--we had a back light [rear window] in it. We had removable roof panels on the thing, but it never got up to that stage. In the meantime, Roy Lunn was casting around for a company to produce this vehicle--that could make it. We made the finished clay model, the fiberglass casts of it, marked it all off and shipped it out to the West Coast for it to be made in metal.
Q: Is this the Mustang I?
A: Mustang I. Roy Lunn designed all the tubular structure, the suspension, the engines. He got all that equipment built and shipped out to the West Coast. It was all put together, we finished our clay model in something like eight weeks' time, and, I guess, Roy had something like sixty days to build an operable vehicle. To see that thing go from an idea to finished product was an exciting time.
This is Dave Crippen of The Edison Institute's Design History Center , and it's May 16, 1984 --the fourth session with John Najjar. He will resume his narrative of adventures in Ford design history in the early 1960's.
A: The thing we were discussing on the last tape was the creation of the Mustang I which was a midship engine sports car. It was designed in the Design Center under the command of Eugene Bordinat who joined forces with Herbert Misch, who was Vice President of Engineering. The objective that the two had agreed to was to take our Mustang I clay model concept and make it into an operable vehicle. They needed this operable vehicle for the Fall press conference to [highlight] the introduction of the 1962 Ford Motor Company products. What they wanted to do was add a little spice to it and to invite a few of the press people in to look at this new little vehicle. To bring the vehicle to life, a man by the name of Roy Lunn, in engineering, was assigned to doing that task. He elected to use Troutman-Barnes, a racing car fabricator out in California . The Design Center finished a fiberglass cast of the surface contours of the vehicle and shipped it out to Troutman-Barnes. Roy Lunn's engineering staff, with Hans Gretzel, worked feverishly to take the Cardinal ponypack engine, [and] redesign the wheel components. They designed the tube work for the frame, front wheel suspension, steering mechanism, all the component operating parts and shipped those parts and drawings out to Troutman-Barnes. Troutman-Barnes put that vehicle together and returned it to the Design Center by late August/early September, and it was driven around the test track by a race car driver named Dan Jones, who applauded its handling. It had no test time on it. It was shown to the press people. Certain press people were allowed to ride in it, and it became the topic for the day, giving our 1962 program a much needed lift. Needless to say, the fellows in the Design Center were all agog at this hot little car. Later on, just to trace the history of what the Mustang I did for the company, a movie was made of Mustang I, along with a 1/10 scale model of the Mustang I which was carried around in a nice mahogany wood case with mirrors. The model was built by the Design Center metal shop. The movie and the model would go to different college campuses, and talks would be given about Ford being the wave of the future, having youth in mind. Wherever possible the drivable Mustang I was driven onto the campus and shown there. It did give the marketing people a chance to get the feelings of the marketplace. Indeed, the Mustang I was a viable marketable car, but Mr. Iacocca had a higher volume goal for it and decided it should be a two plus two. Mustang I just had two people in the front, and the two plus two concept provided for little children space in the aft seating compartment. It did kick off Iacocca's dream of a sporty, youthful car that could be produced in huge volume.
Following the Mustang I introduction, I was then chosen to go work in the interior studio, as was typical in those days. Mr. Bordinat and, indeed, Mr. Walker before him, had embarked upon the thought that since designers were sort of incestual, from the point of view of inbreeding, 'till they could only look to themselves for design, they should be rotated around to different tasks. For six months to a year they'd be in charge of interior, another six months to a year they'd have color and trim or be in advanced or be in pre-production or be in the Ford studio or a Mercury studio. And this merry-go-round, this changing of seats all the time, kept us on our toes. After the Mustang I, it was time for John Najjar to move to the interior studio. In there, I inherited the '64 Thunderbird interior which was originally done by Arthur Querfeld who had done a magnificent job of doing advanced design of the instrument panel and new concepts in seat contours that became part of my program. The ongoing part of it was to develop the new interior for the new production Mustang and to develop new interior concepts for what was to be the high range, the Ford LTD series that higher level Ford--that Iacocca had started to bring to mind. It was a real challenging studio and offered a wide range of new work. Continuing on the Mustang, the product planners there thought of great numbers of accessories for the vehicle: "They should be able to buy tachometers, they should be able to buy clocks, they should be able to buy floor shifts, different type of gear shift knobs, levers, anything the person could think of they should be able to buy it as an accessory because this was a part of getting the extra money." In designing the interior, one of the ways of getting an economy car on the interior door trim panel was to stamp the panel, the inner door panel, out of metal. Normally, car doors are constructed of an outer door panel, an inner door panel, then the door trim panel which is mounted on the inner door panel. On this concept, we were to use the inner door panel as a finished surface and only insert a piece of cloth to indicate it was soft. Looking at the smooth metal, I had an idea, and I was able to get from a vendor, textured metal, metal that had been rolled in the form of a vinyl texture. Upon my insistence, I contacted a Buffalo stamping plant which had early tools and shipped the steel to them and got a budget out of our Design Center and had them stamp out inner door panels. The door panels were shipped back to the Design Center , and the inner door panels, instead of being smooth painted steel now had the look of textured vinyl. We mounted those on panels and showed them to the product planner, showed them to the engineers, and, yes, they thought they could make it work. The product planners were all for it because it gave them a greater visible thing. Engineers weren't so sure because the spot welds would show and damage the vinyl appearance. There was one engineer in charge of the program, I didn't know this would come up--I can't think of his name, but I will think of it, but he was one of those people who you meet in your career who has a can-do attitude like Roy Lunn, like Will Scott and other people who instead of saying, "How did you plan to make it?" say, "Yeah, I think I can do that." Gordon Laughton, he looked at that and said, "Yes, we can do it." About that same time, for the two plus two seat of the Mustang, we had it flip down. In order to get a good look to that rear seat, I wanted to make the seat curve from the cushion into the back and not give it the standard seat back, seat cushion look. I kept getting no's on making this look like it was one integrated seat. Gordon Laughton came over and said, "Yes, I think we can make that." It was that kind of thinking that made that whole car a pleasure to work on.
The LTD program, the Galaxie programs, I worked with Tom Feheney, who later rose in the company. He was a bit hard to work for but he had good ideas, and one of his product planners took on the assignment of changing the coat hook on the interior. The coat hooks at that time were always coming [loose and] didn't seem to do the job right. And it became a main important function of the interior design studio to design a proper coat hook. We went through about ten different designs before we got one. It was a real challenge. The history of the LTD, that luxury vehicle speaks for itself. It was a new upgrading for the Ford product.
Q: The LTD came from the old British Limited?
A I'm not sure, the LTD, I don't know if it came from the limited or the luxury touring something....
The '64 Thunderbird was a real challenge. Art Querfeld had great concepts on it, but there were some things that had to be worked out on the instrument panel. It was a real challenge during my career in interiors to maintain Art's design and bring it through in to production. It's still a terrific design.
Q: What distinguished the '64 design from its predecessor?
A: Well, the '64 Thunderbird was all new, and the interior of it was like an airplane, it put the controls all around the driver. He had the controls on the instrument panel right in front of him, within vision. At one time, all controls for night illumination were to be illuminated with red. Red lights, because it was found that with airline pilots, their eyes could go from darkness to lightness if they used red lights instead of green. The console, emanating from the instrument panel came down between the two front seats, and it made the driver feel as though he was in a cockpit for himself or herself and to completely have all control of that vehicle. They were just upbeat, smart designs. Had a fellow working for me by the name of Irving "Bud" Kaufman who had worked for me previously on other programs. I had given Bud the charge on the hardtop convertible to come up with a tonneau cover that when the convertible top was down, the tonneau cover would cover from the back of the rear seat over the front seat. And he designed a beautiful tonneau cover, and it was marketed.
Q: Really a delightful innovation, much loved by collectors today--that '64 T-Bird.
A: Yeah, it really looked sharp. And the car was nice and long. Of course, it was a pleasure for me later on to be able to lease that vehicle and drive it home and know I was a part of it.
Q: Could I stop you for a moment John? I hate to move you back again to the Mustang, but in terms of its eventual development, you worked very closely on the Mustang I and the Mustang II. Did you have input into the production Mustangs after that?
A: Yes. It was when I was moved to the interior studio, I had charge of the first production Mustang as well as the other Ford products. So I was able to continue the feeling into the Mustang, and that's where the "vinyl" steel door came from. That was a part of that program.
Q: The Mustang had a tremendous impact on the industry, as I recall.
A: Yes, its introduction-it was the first vehicle that hit 500,000 units in its first year. And people were standing in line to buy it. Going back to that vehicle, a couple things, was the name ... Ford Division started a search and hired J. Walter Thompson [Ford advertising agency] and others to come up with a name for this new vehicle, Torino and Thor, etc. All of these came up, and one J. Walter Thompson man claims he picked the name, and he picked the name Mustang. What he means by that is that he took the name Mustang from Mustang I. It became part of the proposal, so basically he selected it.
Q: There was quite a discussion and finally Mustang kept rising to the top.
A: Yes, being a popular name.
Q: ... a popular, all-American, wide open spaces kind of name.
A: It fit with that. It fit that one where the gal out in Laramie throws a scarf around her neck, and the car goes to the wide open spaces. I guess it was the ad for the Jordan ....
Q: "Somewhere west of Laramie ...."
A: Somewhere west of Laramie , that was it, that was the famous line. That was the Jordan .
Q: Let me go out of styling into merchandising and marketing a bit.
Iacocca's been called the father of the Mustang. How would you answer a statement like that?
A: I would say it's absolutely true. I was in several meetings, early meetings, when, being in the interior studio, I'd go to the product planning meetings. Iacocca would call a meeting, start if off, Don Frey would take it over, and in that meeting was Harold Sperlich, if I remember right. And all the engineers, designers that were vehicle production people, were at these weekly meetings to find out how it was going, where it was going. The marketing people were in this-engineering too. So, Iacocca was the one that, from my viewpoint, assigned the people, assigned the money from the Ford Division to budget the building of these early clay vehicles and to get it through. And I understand, from my viewpoint, that Mr. [Henry II] Ford was not all for it.
Q: He seemed lukewarm, did he, at this point?
A: Didn't want to go along with it, but Iacocca had built enough armament and was convinced enough to do it, that he convinced Mr. Ford to go ahead with it. If you take it right to the top, Mr. Henry Ford II was the final arbiter, and he was the one that said, "Go." And the man that brought it to him to say "Go" or "No" was Iacocca. And if you go underneath and finally get to the base of the triangle where people such as myself participated....
Q: It was basically a fait accompli on Iacocca's part. He had such a good package that Henry, whether he was lukewarm or not, had to say yes.
A: I'm sure he even had it researched with the dealers. And Mr. Iacocca was no slouch with the dealers. The dealers also carried a lot of weight. I don't know whether Mr. Ford made it at a finance meeting. But the comment was that, "Well, I don't go along with it, but if this is what you want...."
Q: In terms of industry movement at this time, you'd done very well with the two-seated Thunderbird in the '50's. That had now been upgraded to a four seater by this time.
Q: Chevrolet had done very well with the Corvette. And there was some
feeling within the styling group that if you go with something like the Mustang I and make it into a Corvette rival....
A: Oh, absolutely.
Q: But I think it was Iacocca that said no at this point, and said, we want something of broader appeal."
A: They could have well approved both vehicles and saw the market to compete directly, but, I guess, Ford Division at that time was in the business of really making money. And you don't make money on a two seater when it just didn't pay for itself. So they figured they'd get enough marketing out of the two plus two.
Q: And it turned out they were right.
A: Sure were. On the Mustang, there was a vehicle called the Mustang II which I didn't deal with. In all our programs past and currently they tried to show that ideas evolved in an orderly basis from designers and from the company. So when the work of the production Mustang was finalized, Bordinat felt that it was necessary to show a logical development from the show car Mustang I to the production one. So he was going to take "cues" and panel parts from the production Mustang and work them into the show car, Mustang II. So he had several people working on it, and he asked me to do some sketches on it. I had some formal presentations made for him off on the side, for him, personally. He thought they were too much advanced, and he thought we should draw something that was a little closer to the production vehicle. So I went home that evening and did about three or four drawings on 18 x 24 white paper* and showed them to Bordinat the next morning. And he said, "Yes, that's it. Give them to me." And he took them to Don DeLaRossa who was in the studio that I had vacated, and Mr. DeLaRossa's team did the vehicle that bridged the gap between Mustang I and the production Mustang, called it Mustang II.
Q: John, before we leave the 'fifties, could I pull a couple of loose threads together? You mention Gil Spear and the retractable hardtop. Did he follow that through to final production?
* Editor's Note: Drawings are in the Ford Archives, Henry Ford Museum.
A: No. There were two retractable hardtops. One was done in '55, and the other one was the early sketching he had done in 1948-1949. Gil Spear was a fluid designer, a great illustrator, and had conceived the concept that you could take the roof that we now call the hardtop and just have it slide back and set on top of the deck and look like the deck itself. And he drew up several renderings of these and built 3/8 inch scale models. And that's as far as that program went. And then the Design Center moved to the new building in '53, and George Walker was appointed Vice President in 1955. Engineering felt they could do their own design and had taken Gil Spear away from the Design Center and put in another place in body engineering. And there, Gil Spear further did some development of the retractable hardtop. But once having left the doors of the Design Center , he never really came back in, even though he physically came back in later years. So, unfortunately-he was a terrific designer.
Q: Someone did pick up the second concept of the retractable hardtop.
A: The second concept was picked up from the, I guess it was on the '55 or '56, I guess they called it the Skyliner. And that was developed mainly by engineering because it had so many working parts.
Q: This time the top went into the deck.
A: This time it was swallowed inside the deck.
Q: It lasted about three years at the most. One other thread. You mentioned McNamara. And, as you very well know, the Falcon was pretty much his baby. It never seemed to go anywhere beyond the economy car. Was it a viable concept?
A: Yes, its mission in life was to produce the low-cost vehicle and high return on the dollar. And it had to have minimum skin surfaces and cut [manufacturable] in judicious places. So it was a Spartan type of design. It was designed that way. McNamara, himself, as you put it, was a straight character.
Q: Yes, straight arrow.
A: Straight arrow but straight in his, I don't mean good in this sense,he was narrow in his concept of design. It was good last year, it's good this year. He was not one to reach out and go out for design's sake, but he could understand making two tools instead of one because volume dictated it. He could not understand taking those two tools and making one of them different. For instance, let's take the headlight door. It's the little bezel that goes over a headlight once you put the headlight on a fender. At least it was in circa '55, '56. You could put a standard headlight door on there that looked nice. And that would take so many... cover so many standard vehicles, and your volume was, say, 200,000 on it. Now if you sold another 200,000 units, you had to build another tool, let's say. Our designers would say, as long as you're going to build another tool, let's make it a little fancier and let it cover the upper scale of the volume. Whereas McNamara wanted one design and just build two tools because that would save on engineering. We wanted two unique designs because it cost no more, just engineering design time. So he was straight.
Q: I'm afraid he carried that concept into the TBX....
A: Oh God, yes. It's a good thing he didn't leave one wing off. I guess in some cases they did. But I'll tell you that the Falcon was a good car.
Q: And I suspect the Fairlane was another one of his enthusiasms.
A: It was sparse. Bring it in, narrow it up. It reminds you a little bit of the old Chrysler days. Bigger on the inside, smaller on the outside.
So, now I'm up to the end of 1963. We've completed the Ford car interiors, the Ford LTD and the Thunderbird....
Q: ...and you've completed the '64 Thunderbird.
A: And the Mustang production interiors, and we developed the concept of the Mustang II showcar.
Q: In this era, are there different design concepts evolving in terms of how you worked with the different component groups such as marketing and engineering?
A: I would say yes. We were getting more formal. Of course, that happened in the late '50's, and from about '55 through '60 we got more formal. At least the formality was really to include production management, include body engineering and design. Sometimes marketing was brought in. The product planner's role was firmly established. He was given the task of bringing the thing home, so to speak, to the point of presentation. And in this period going forward on this, it got even more formal because tighter records were being kept, minutes were being more formally kept. And safety started to really come in at that time, and lots and lots of meetings were on it. Could I deviate for a moment on an anecdote, back to the '58 Lincoln ? In the era of presentation, a fellow by the name of Norm Krandall worked for Don Petersen [then a product planner]. And we had come to the point of showing the hood ornament for the 1958 Lincoln Premier, and now the Lincoln Continental. What would it be? Well, the Lincoln Continental had a four pointed star inside of a coffin shape.
The Lincoln Premier had a blazing star with many, many points going in all directions. So, how to go about it? Well, let's make a blend of it. So we worked with Norm Krandall on this, and we came up with a couple of designs, and finally we ended up with this one that Ben Mills thought was pretty good. And it was a combination of the two. And so here was this meeting in the showroom. Mr. [Ernest] Breech was there. Ben Mills [ Lincoln general manager] was there. People sat down in the chairs. There must have been about 20 people at this meeting in the showroom. In the showroom were some of our Lincoln and Lincoln Continental models, with the hood ornament on it. Or no, they didn't have the hood ornament. That's right, on a table covered with black cloth were some ornaments showing the history of the Continental hood ornament and Lincoln hood ornament. And there was an easel with some 30 x 40 boards on there with presentation words. And there was a glass case, which was covered, and inside of the glass case was an ornament mounted on a walnut block. Norm Krandall stood up to make the presentation. "Mr. Breech, Mr. Mills, we're here today to formalize the final [design] on this and take you through it: hood ornaments have a value, hood ornaments should do this, they should not pierce people. We've met all these objectives--and this is the history of this--and we can produce this. And now we would like to show you the hood ornament." Off comes the black cloth, if I remember it right. Off comes the glass case and in Norman Krandall's hand [is the hood ornament]. He moves it over Mr. Mills who shows it, moves his hand over and shows it to Mr. Breech. Mr. Breech looked at this thing of glory; oh, yes--part of Norm's pitch..."We had engineering look at this, and the Design Center under John Najjar designed this." Mr. Breech looked at this thing [the hood ornament] and sat back and said, "I don't like it." And the room went dead. How dare he do this? Ben Mills looked at Mr. Breech, couldn't understand it. He picked it up and said, "Mr. Breech, if you'll come with me." And Ben was all for it. We were all for it. He walked over to the front end of this Lincoln , lifts up the ornament and sets it on there in a hole we had prepared and stood back and said, "There." And Mr. Breech said, "Now, I know I don't like it." It was just so crushing. And he said, "Well, what's the next item on the agenda?" That afternoon we had three Lincolns on which we had to do the side ornamentation. And I stood up. By this time the chairs were spun around, and we're looking at the three models. And I went through my pitch on the body side moldings. And Mr. Breech looked at me and said, "Well, John, I don't like that. Can you do this?" And he said, "You got a pencil?" And I said, "Yes." And I went to one of the guys and brought a pad over. And we sat down on the floor in front of these three models and a photograph of the Lincoln , and I was doing a little sketching with him. And he said, "That's what I want. I like that." So he was in the design mood that day. And after the meeting Ben came over. "Unfortunate that this happened. Should not lose your spirits, fellows. Now, go back and let's adjust this this way and do this way, and, when you have it done, I'll take it to him." So the next time Mr. Mills presented it to Mr. Breech, and they showed it to [Henry II] Ford, personally, as individuals. I don't know, maybe what bugged Mr. Breech was all this long-winded garbage [in the presentation]. Anyway, it was an anecdote about the man. It was a good feeling.
Now July, 1963, to '67, the way I set my chronology is by my playing these musical chairs. And I'll put these dates upon the date that I was moved into a studio or moved out of it. My move at this time was as design executive of the truck studio. And the truck studio was considered to be an outpost. Nobody goes there. But in there was a man who had held control of it for many years. He had been one of the original designers to work with E.T. Gregorie when the Design Center was formed in 1936 [by E.B. Ford]. His name was Willys P. Wagner. Throughout my career, Bill had been a mentor of mine as was Edward Martin, as was John Walters and Bruno Kolt. And Bill was going to retire. He'd been dubbed, "Mr. Truck." And I had been moved in there two to three months before his retirement date in order that I could get a grasp of this very complex organization that dealt with the lowly F-100 trucks all the way up to the big transcontinental trucks and interchangeability like you wouldn't believe and the Econoline [van] type of thing. "Better get in there and start to learn the business, we can't let that slide," Bordinat said. "Get in there and learn it." So I went in there with Bill, and he was very nice, and I sat down and had many talks with him over the space of a week. And a week later, I had drawn my famous 18 x 24 Ford Motor truck ohart. And I had Bordinat down there so I could brief him on truck programs, and Wagner's comment is, "Oh, Joe Oros is in charge of the truck studio ahead of Bordinat." Joe was the one who was afraid of losing Wagner and wanted somebody in there right away. And rightly so, this was an important job. So I had Joe [come] in there. And I went through it, and I said, "Let me show you what I've done." At the finish which Wagner said, "Hell, I can leave now." You know, very bluntly.
Meaning I understood the "series" numbers and had picked up [on] things. That became the master sheet on my office wall. So before any meeting, people wanted to look at it.
Q: Has that survived?
A: No, that hasn't survived.
Q: Could you reproduce it?
A: Oh yes. I could reproduce that, it's in my brain.
Q: You might do that sometime.
A: Could try it as a task. Anyhow, that taught me another thing in that musical chair bit. And I learned or employed it subconsciously. Go into a place, study, read back records, assimilate as much as you can before you open your mouth. In my case, if I put it down on paper, whether I write or whether I draw it, I as able to, "get it." And to my surprise I found that other people were not clear on many things, and putting it up on the wall soon found out whether you were right and had to move things in your brain to get it right. In this truck period, which was very challenging, we were doing the 1966 trucks which were a facelift, which was a front-end change of the grille. And my tenure in the truck studio went from 1963 to 1967, and during that period we did the facelift on the '66 trucks, started the work, completed it in the 1967 all new light truck, did an all new 1968 Econoline where we moved the front wheels from aft of the front end to almost ahead of the front end. We did a new 1968, "W" series truck, all new, and began creating the early work on what is now known as the Louisville series. And that was when I developed what is currently known as a diamond grille theme. Of course, Ford did not have a look of its own in trucks. Doing the '66 facelift, vehicles were a good challenge. Incidentally, during this period--I was there from '63 to '67--they had a couple product planners, new people to the programs, come in. And their management were as concerned about their knowledge of trucks as my management was. I would end up in the mornings with a fellow by the name of John McLain who was one of these guys who had come out of the sales force, I believe. Knew little or nothing about engineering. After meeting with him a couple of times, I said, "John," [I could see he was uncomfortable in the engineering discussions] "why don't you come to the Design Center [at] 7:30 each morning, and I will meet you here and let me show you some of the things that I use as a guidebook in my design." What we had, and still have, is called a section book. The section book deals with cross sections through important parts of the vehicle, which like an architect will draw an outline of your home, but your home is built by the section part. That's a cross section through how the door jamb will look through a door, how the roof fits in relationship to the vertical brick wall, how a window looks when it fits the cross section. So, a car and truck are built through these cross sections. So I took John McLain through all of these cross sections and filled him in on the glossary of terms. And John would come over on the morning of the meeting. Our meetings would usually start about 10 A.M. in the morning, 9:30 with body engineering, chassis engineering, product planning, and the Design Center to discuss a number of items on the agenda for that day, and we would now meet every week.
Q: And this. process had solidifed by the mid-'60's?
A: By the mid-'60's it had, really. This was a way of life.
Q: How did the designers take that?
A: They took it all right because they knew they couldn't get their designs through unless they had feasibility. And a lot of the gripes they would have before, that of some guy changing their designs on the board without them knowing about it. And so, by effecting these tighter controls, what was approved on that day by a committee that was a total working committee, would have the benefit of being costed, finely drawn, clay modeled so it looked right, it would show the management that we were very sure that, except for minor things at the end where engineers or somebody decided they couldn't mold it, stamp it or cast it, they'd have to ask for changes. But they couldn't change that, so that formal business helped. It also helped to speed the transition from approval of an item to getting into production. Up until the middle '50's, we could have something approved in clay, but it took a long time to [make it feasible and] transported [to engineering].
Q: So it wasn't really a process of "Here's my design, run with it." Your input was from the beginning to the end.
A: And it was interchangeable. Many times, the concept design started from pure concept of design. And many times, it had to be a shape put around the function. Or, indeed, reflect the function itself, be the function. And just ask the engineer, okay, this handle's got to turn this level. Could this handle be a half inch longer to get the leverage, could it be this? And don't put that screw on the front piece. So, in the truck studio, the designs there were very tight because they were closer to the bill. By closer to the bill, I mean the cost-to-profit picture. What profit could be made off of trucks. You will design a vehicle that will probably turn out a million copies in sales. I'd say, by the time its life cycle ended, it ran for four or five years, and it would have 5, 6 million copies of it on the road with minor changes. If they're ugly, they're not going to sell, but if they're good, they're really good, and Ford has had number one position [in truck sales] for years on end. So the real challenge for the truck designer, as far as I was concerned, it wasn't an outpost, it was on the leading edge of design.
Q: And what had [early on] been regarded as Siberia , was, perhaps, a bit strong. In your opinion, they developed into a leading product for the company.
A: Bill Wagner left and was very happy that he was leaving trucks in good hands. I took the studio over, and one thing I did, for one program we had in the development of a new Econoline, in the 1967 Ford truck, was a survey of all the magazines that I could find, tearing out pictures left and right, of newly-designed products. I took out pictures of motorcycles, toasters, washers, airplanes, women's clothes, houses, and I took one of the 8'x24' blackboards, and I stapled the [reproductions] on that wall. And I sat down with my designers. They were really excited because instead of having Bill with them--Bill was a production engineer, architect, designer, and a good guy, but he didn't challenge the designer. If a thing could be solved mechanically, he'd solve it mechanically. I started out with this board to pick out of there [a design theme] that is common in all these elements. And this is going back to my Maguire training. "Now, what is the basis of element, John?" And so I pulled out of these elements a new shape. The new shape coming up was the diamond. I called it a diamond, but it was a hexagon--six sided with the top and bottom being longer lines, the two side elements maintaining their normal dimensions. It meant that above a certain line everything tumbled in, and below a certain line everything tucked in. And this angular flowing shape was the look of the future. So I picked out several presentations of this and put them on the blackboard and then started to draw full-size sections--again the section book--of what the new Econoline could look like in the sections. The Econoline is as high as a seven foot door, that's a lot of area to cover. In the new truck, how its shape would generally look, and I showed that to Bordinat and to Oros, and they liked the concept--the thought of it. And from that we started to use those sections to develop the concept of the new Econoline and truck. So it was a challenge right along. One thing I remember was the proposal for the '68 Econoline. John McLain, myself--I am trying to think back to the product planner. Will Scott's name appeared in there someplace. He was a part of it. I think Don Petersen was on it too.
Anyhow, we had gotten this vehicle to the point of going into the approval committee for money for this revolutionary Econoline. "What, you're going to take the wheels from under the seat and shove 'em forward? Why?" "Packing improvement, things of this nature, safety for the driver. Get that engine up there." But that's the point. It's a real gamble. We had all these vehicles on the road, what is G.M. doing? There was a change in top management. Phil Caldwell came in here [trucks] as we were just ready to go up for a budget proposal.
Q: Had he come up through the truck route?
A: He'd come up through--I'm trying to think how he came back in. He was returned to the truck--he'd been in trucks, and then, I think, he'd come back to it. Anyhow, he came to work to see his programs. "Let's see your papers, fellas. And let's go in and get the papers," and then McLain would come back to our meeting. He said, "We gotta go. If we're going to get this for this year, we've gotta get the approval." And talk about vacillation...I didn't see Phil vacillate in any of these meeting, but I saw the repercussions. He had to cross every "t", dot every "i" and worried about this, worried about that. There was none of this gut feel of the car. I guess this permeates throughout Phil's career. Anyhow, it was approved and became a winner. It shook up the industry, and everybody started to copy it. On the '67 Ford truck, which was all new, we had a lot of product planning influence. Shape should be round, we've got to do this, and look at the Chevy, they have a visor top back of the roof. They had this, they had that. And there was a lot of input. And we showed the clay model to Iacocca, and I had a gut feeling about this program. We had taken this clay model up the showroom, Iacocca looked at it and said, "I wouldn't give you one cent for that [vehicle]. It's awful. Go back to the studio and do something else. You know we're running out of time. We've already screwed around two years in development on this thing." So, that's when I said to McLain, "We're already designing a new concept," and we did this blackboard drawing, cut it out in profile, mounted it up, put sandbags behind it so it wouldn't flip over, rolled real tires up to it. I have a photograph of it someplace. Bordinat was all for it. McLain was all for it. We rolled it into the showroom, pulled apart the curtain and said, "There's the clay model you didn't like. We have another version here. It's only a drawing. And Iacocca looked at the full-size drawing, he said, "Sheez, I'll take that one. How soon can you do it?" And McLain, to his credit, had gotten oral commitments out of people saying, "Yeah," and we had it committed that within two weeks we could have a full-sized clay. And we did it. We did the full-size clay, got it done, engineers gave their blessing, rolled it back in the showroom, [Iacocca] said, "That's it." You know, it's that type of thing from absolute zero to a winner, and he wondered what we did for two years developing it. We went through committees. And you asked about these committees. In one case, we were keeping good records, but what we had lost, I guess I had lost it, was this powerful input of the look of the vehicle. I had the cross sections there, but the front ends and rear ends just didn't jell. But this rendering did, and it became the '67 Ford truck.
Q: It was a real breakthrough in truck design.
A: It was a good job, and it established the look of that truck.
Q: Ford kept to this truck almost to this year.
A: The Louisville series was Ford's dream of getting into the medium and heavy truck business in a big scale. There was money to be made in that because they had all the running gear, and all they had to do was drop on a new chassis and new shell. And so they started on this Louisville series. Well, the Louisville had to run from just above the medium truck--F-100 truck was the light truck, and it went up to F-250. From 250 on up to 500, was the medium truck. And then from that point on up, it got into the heavy trucks. Being this type of thing, Mack had just come out with their beautiful fiberglass front end, and International Harvester was out there. And we were sitting there with an "old hat" thing. And so I picked up this diamond theme again, wanting to run it through all the trucks, through the concept, logic, Ford family. I developed that theme onto the truck and was just getting it to the point--the front end was approved--and we were developing the other fenders, the other things, and I was transferred out of that studio. That was in June of '67.
Q: What was the reason for the transfer?
A: Oh, I know what it was. In the Design Center because of the--well, throughout Ford Motor Company--they had employee evaluation, and each year every employee was evaluated. And from the year '63 through '66 I'd been getting [mine] from Mr. Oros who gave me my performance review. You gotta know, I was formerly a chief, and I'd been living under this demotion. I knew I was a good second man, and I wanted to show, you know, keep on going, I was still driving. And Joe's evaluation of John Najjar was "John, you're a good guy, you're great on trucks, you're terrific, but..." I had a hell of time getting that "but" out of him..."you're not a real designer. You can't do anything else." And I said, "Joe, I want a transfer." I said, "I've done trucks, and I've done them well, and I just want a chance to prove I can do the same kind of things on cars or other stuff." And so Joe took it back to the meeting. Bordinat had a meeting of all his managers and all his head people to evaluate their employees. And they'd go through each guy. And Joe would have to sit up and say, "This is John Najjar, his performance is excellent," or, "outstanding." He did this and this and this, and as a truck designer, he's great." And that would go down. And Bordinat says, "Well, what's the but?" and Bordinat had his reservations, I'm sure, about me. "Well, John isn't happy, and he wants to... Well, we've got something else. We've got Philco-Ford. We've got to deal with them. Maybe we should move him here and move..." I think it was Boyer, no, it wasn't Boyer-it was another guy (Keith Teter)--out of there and play musical chairs again. So I ended up as Design Executive in charge of Advanced Products and Graphics. And I worked in there from June '67 to February of '69.
Q: Was this a promotion?
A: No, lateral. All lateral. Musical chairs. And, in this studio, during this period we worked on Philco-Ford electronic and appliance products. We worked with the Vinyl Division in designing vinyl. We had a small design, weaves and patterns, we had a small account from them. Also, designed the Ford Division show cars for 1968 and '69 which included the Saturn, the Torino , De Italia, Ford Fiero, Mach I, Torino Machete, and a series of them might have been there. I have color slides of them which I've gotta toss out.
Q: Don't do that.
A: I have photographs of some of them. If you want that kind of stuff, if I ever decide to put it together and just leave it in boxes. You know, and how I've got it organized I can show you. Now, in advanced products and graphics there is a title--Philco-Ford Electronic. Well, we were providing help to the design staff at Philco-Ford. And they wanted this help like they wanted a hole in the head--another hole in the head.
Q: Ford had picked up this company and made it into a division and had kept the staff largely intact.
A: That was right.
Q: In Philadelphia ?
A: In Philadelphia . Bordinat, being the Vice President of Design--was he the Vice President of Design of Ford Motor Company or was he Vice President of Design of Automotive Products? Well, Bordinat was eager and moving on the success of the Mustang and stuff. We could do this, sure enough. And so began my education in the Philco-Ford stuff. First working on it with Philco-Ford was to help them do their label. The combination of Philco-Ford and Blue on Gold. And that was done before I got there. I'd like to say Bill Boyer, but it was another fellow in there. [K. Teter] And so I had to follow that through and do some sketches of advanced products, just mail them on down. There was little or no actual physical work going on.
Q: Were they still the consumer division at that time, the consumer electronics appliance division?
A: Yes, they had refrigerators and dishwashers and things. The vinyl product consisted of developing weaves and pattern for the Ford vinyl people. Understand this, the vinyl people were competing with outside vinyl concerns such as Goodyear and other people that were into the vinyl fabrication--Firestone. And as a company, it could not show favoritism to its own vinyl staff. So what I mean by that is the Design Center went out and asked a vendor for some vinyl samples and brought them in . No way could the Design Center say, "We're going to show these to Mount Clemens [Ford plastics] and see if they can copy them. Mount Clemens at the same time was treated by the Design Center as an outside vendor. And when they came knocking at the front door, [Art] Querfeld would say to them, who headed interior design, "You guys just don't have the staff. Here, your stuff is no good. I can get it better from this guy," and, you know, Art knew his material, he knew it well. So the vinyl people came to us as industrial designers, as advanced products and graphics. They weren't industrial at that time, and said, "Would you be willing to do some designs for us?" And I said, Well, sure we'd be glad to. But we'll take a small part of the budget, and we'll play it by the book. We'll not show it to any interiors staff at all. We'll do it with your staff, and then you bring it into the front door." "Yeah, but you guys work here, can't you...?" "We can't accept it on that basis. You know, it wouldn't be fair." And that really worked that way. So we designed--I'm trying to think of the two fellows' names out at vinyl. I'll think of them in a moment (Peter Burnett and [Cal Jensen]). Both good people. One guy was the one in charge of their designs.
Q: This was based in Mount Clemens ?
A: Mount Clemens . One man out there, a good development engineer, was a WW II fighter pilot. We developed into good friends. I've got his name someplace (Beno Weber). And we'd go out there once a week with our sketches and our little wares, and we'd show them to the vinyl people, try to convince the vinyl people to invest money in a roll. And when they made this roll, which is a cylinder about 12 inches long and about 14 inches in diameter, they'd have to engrave on this roll the design. So it would cost them anywhere between $1,000 and $10,000 to design the roll plus rolling it out as the sample, and they had stringent budgets. And, like a vendor, they didn't have the wherewithal of the outside vendor. So, anyhow, we would design these things, and we would have an internal meeting to pick out the designs, they'd be brought in and shown. So that was our participation on that. And several of our weaves and patterns were innovative, and Mount Clemens got a lot of business from it. In fact, so much business that they got mad when part of their designs were given to the outside vendors to meet the volume. As you know, Ford vinyl was selling to Chrysler and other people, and had to keep those designs separate from that.
Q: Interesting that the vinyl production grew out of the tire companies.
A: I think it must have. But they were sort of advanced in the open weave vinyl which was the greatest boon for station wagons. I personally sweat when I sit on vinyl, but this breathable vinyl was fantastic. That established a relationship with the vinyl people that was to continue for many years.
The show car part of it consisted of taking our production models and using those. At this time, showcars were not done in the Design Center . We found that it was kind of expensive to go that route. Our advanced studios could do more truly advanced vehicles for production. But now our showcars became vehicles that were hottened up versions of the then production car to come out. So it would either be early production runs of the body, hottened up in certain places, and then show it at the same time as the production vehicle--show it a month before. So I picked up this task, and our vendors were located around the country in California , Arizona , Boston , Detroit , and so the guy that had that job had to come through. We'd do our renderings. Here's a production Ford, let's say. We're going to do a model off of this called the Fiero. Maybe not. This is the way it can look. This is the front end, this is the rear end. We estimate that for $26,000, if you give us the production vehicle, we can convert it and have it ready for show on this date. So we would go through each of the vehicles and set up a budget. Then came the task of meeting with the vendors, getting their bids on it, giving the bids out, and then my task was to follow [up and direct] each vendor. So I was on a route about once every two weeks--from about mid-Summer until Fall introduction--to all these places, and I learned a lot about car building from these alley garages. All night flights, cancelled flights, taking busses, renting cars. Helping a guy--a lot of them were just alley workers that had no concept of how to bend the grille to make it look right. They looked like they were pasted on. So I would go out and rent hydraulic jacks to bend things back in place. It required good experience. Then we'd bring 'em back and have them shipped into the Design Center . Bordinat would come down, the studio guys would come down, and they'd urinate on many of the designs. "John, that's awful. How'd you get this headlight?" So, we'd have to get a local guy, local fabricator guys that we knew and take them in there and do some correction. In 1969, February, 1969, Mr. [Semon "Bunky] Knudsen's [arrival] began to affect my career. He had come in....
Q: Let's set the scene for that. As I recall, Iacocca, very ambitious at this point, in the late '60's, was angling for the top spot. The presidency.
A: That's correct. He probably deserved it.
Q: Henry Ford II, even at this early point, was a little restive about giving it to him, and Knudsen had just, at this point, left General Motors because they had not made him president, I believe. Is that it?
A: I think that was the story.
Q: And Henry had a sudden impulse. Why don't we hire Bunky Knudsen?
A: This was in '68, I think. Mr. Knudsen had a love for race cars.
And one man on his design staff at General Motors, was a young man by the name of Larry Shinoda. Very ambitious, very driving individual, had worked on Indianapolis race cars. Knew a lot, had a lot of moxie about what was going on, and had the complete trust of Mr. Knudsen. In fact, Larry had indicated that Mr. Knudsen had looked upon him as a son, as if he had an Oriental son. And Larry rode on this quite a bit and was moved into the design center as were a couple of other people from G.M. Larry Shinoda, Dave Wheeler, Bob--what was his last name? Anyhow, he's still there. We were sore. There was another individual and, by God, we're going to see another invasion from General Motors. We did it before, we'll do it again. And Bordinat, of course, had to accept this. Well, Larry turned out to be everything that people said he was.
Q: What was his title, by the way?
A: He came in as an executive stylist, like I was, design executive.
And Larry's base of operations happened to be where my office was. In fact, I had to give up half of my office for Larry. So Larry had come in, and when he came in, he took over half of my responsibilities, took over the showcars. And so I could now start to work on the other things with Philco and graphics. Larry'd come up to me and talk to me and say, "Geez, that bastard Bordinat. He wouldn't let me do this. You know, I had to go directly to Knudsen to get this idea [approved]. You know, do it." And he was really ticked off about having to work with Gene. He wanted to be directly responsible to Knudsen, and Gene wasn't about to let that happen. Larry trusted me, and I cooled him off many times. And I said, "Well, Larry, you know you're in a big organization. It's not like you--how you worked at G.M." One of the things that shows Larry's thinking: as a diversion, Larry got assigned a car, and, I think, he took one of either our show vehicles, operable show vehicles, or one of our hot new vehicles just introduced, and drove it back over to G.M. right into the G.M. garage. They were ticked off about it, that he got past the guards and everything, but it was this type of thing: "I'll show 'em." So he had that "gung ho" drive, and he knew that Knudsen was behind him. My relationship with him, he would say he was unhappy with his work. I said, "Well, you know Gene's got directors working for him, and if your position is going to grow or anything when you came over here...." This was the one negative thing I did in my lifetime, and it was a point in my career when I was a little sick and tired of being passed over for a directorship. I thought I had proven myself. And I says, "Larry, I'm ticked off too, but if you want to really get somewhere in this place, you should have Knudsen appoint you a director, and that's just one step below V.P., and then you'll have more control." I think he was working for [Don] DeLaRossa. Anyhow, next thing I know, Gene is upstairs, and, by this time, Industrial Design had begun to do more things.
Q: When did the concept of Industrial Design come into being?
A: It was formalized when Mr. Knudsen came in. It had to have been in 1969 that it formalized, with a director. I'll talk about what came up to it. We had started to go out, and Bordinat said, "Well, designers are again incestual. All they're doing is talking to other car designers, so we need to get out and do more products. John, if your going to do this, you've got to get with Philco, you've got to look throughout the company for business. Then we'll rotate designers up here." And that was a great idea. No question on it. "And you'll still have this." Bordinat came up, and I said, ""You know Larry is unhappy, and he's going to be a director. I had heard that was coming, and Gene says, "Yeah." I said, "Here I am up here, Gene, doing the same kind of damn thing, and I just want you to know I'm unhappy, and I'd like to be a director sometime.
I'm sure I'd do well, and I am doing it, you know." And, coincidentally, next thing I know, the following announcement came out: "Larry Shinoda, Director of..., John Najjar, Director of the newly-formed Industrial Design office." So that's how I got it. It wasn't by being modest. Gene figured, I guess, if they're going to appoint one of his guys, I'm going to appoint one of mine. I never did tell Gene that I was the one who put the bug in Larry's [ear], and he'll probably shoot me if he ever hears this. He'd have done the same damn thing.
Q: What was Larry Shinoda the director of? What was his position?
A: I don't know if that was advanced products and showcars, advanced body design, advanced products. What he was doing in there was leading production vehicle.
Q: Shinoda was somewhat of a divisive influence within the design staff, was he not, because of his [presumed] arrogance and his closeness was Bunky Knudsen?
A: Oh, sure. That's where I had to run not one thing. I stepped over and joined his group. By making the statement to him. He did, he tried to get teams around him, people that worked for him willingly. Worked night and day and promise them certain things and have to go fight with Gene and get them raises.
Q: His chief antagonist was Bordinat?
A: Yes. Absolutely.
Q: Bordinat didn't care for him at all?
A: He figured he was.... Anyone that went behind Bordinat's back and talked to Knudsen about something. I guess in some instances that he and Shinoda didn't agree on something--Shinoda could turn 180 degrees. And Larry said, "I hope some day to be the next Vice President of Design," which didn't directly endear him to Gene. Gene wasn't about to let competition come up, and he knew he was damn well better... period. During this period of 1969, when I first became Director of Industrial Design, to November of 1974, a period of five years, has been, to me, the most adventurous, the most mind-boggling, brain-growing, challenging experience I had in my lifetime. If I were to say, "What would you like to do over," I guess it would have been those five years.
Q: Can you take us through some of those five years?
A: You'll have to shut me up.
1969-1970: provided design support for automobile shows. What this consisted of was Ford Division or Lincoln-Mercury would hire their own-their staff people--who would go out and hire design exhibits and other competitive exhibit companies to design their automobile shows. We reasoned, what the heck, we know the cars, let's go after some of that business, let's see if we can't get our order in, get our stipend. We're not going to build it, but we certainly can following the building of an automobile show exhibit piece better than some of the guys that are doing it. Well, of course, the guys in charge didn't agree with it, and I forget the two names of the guys, but they accepted the fact that we were coming on board with it. A light turned on because Iacocca said to the Ford Division that you'll work with John Najjar and his group for Bordinat. Of course, you had to go back, and Clint Mahlke is one guy. These guys picked the show girls, they picked the speeches, they picked the writers, they were major domos. They had to get the delivery trucks through, they had to get the production vehicle in, and all they had to get from the Design Center were the showcars. That was a hell of a job anyhow. Now they're going to come in and do this. I pride myself on understanding these guys' feelings and not stepping on them because I had the authority. I wasn't about to pull a Larry Shinoda, if I can say it that way. But to use them and to make a damn show and to meet their budget, and so in every meeting we had--before the meetings, I'd call each of these guys in. I forget the guy from Lincoln-Mercury (Ray...)--call them over and say, "This is our thought, this is what we're planning." We'd do it in writing, no sketches. I made up concepts for the automobile shows, what the theme would be.
About this time I had a gentleman working for me, a man by the name of Steve Sherer who, I think, through some connection, was related to the Ford family. His mother was the daughter of...I'm not sure. His father was either in the early automobiles, REO's or had an invention, a medical capsule, independently wealthy.
Q: The Sherer Company?
A: Now, I'm not sure how his father had gotten it, but they had three sons and a daughter. Two of his sons--one's a banker, or was a banker downtown--the other son was successful at something--a daughter had married. But Steve was a black sheep. He wanted to draw, and that guy was talented. He came from the Los Angeles Art Center , and he worked for me in one of my studios. He came into my studio and introduced himself. He was about six feet tall. I didn't know any of his background. I said, "Welcome aboard, and I hope to challenge your imagination, and would you do me one favor?" He said, "What's that?" I said, "Before you do anything or talk to me, where's your portfolio?" His jaw dropped. He said, "It's home." I said, "Well, you take the rest of the afternoon off, you go back home and get that portfolio lined up, and you bring it back in, and we'll have four hours tomorrow morning." I sat down with Steve Sherer, and he told me later that nobody had done that. Neither had the employment office. I wanted to know how he thought, I wanted to know his drawing because he had done a little bit of the same thing with Syd Mead, who turned out to be one of the top illustrators in the company and went out on his own and did all the sights and scenes for one movie and then worked for Walt Disney on some of their future plans--real avant-garde type of guy. Anyhow, Steve had credit card cancelling things, TV sets that were mounted in eye glasses. I said, "You're just boggling my mind, Steve." Then Steve went on to other things and worked in "cars." When Larry Shinoda was appointed Director and also had showcars, Steve worked for him and did some of the showcars' sixtysecond introductions. Steve's mind was not small--he hired a chauffeur, klieg lights, got the four-door phaeton convertible Lincoln downtown in front of the Art Institute with movies going on, glamour people getting in and did a sixty-second bit on that vehicle. Steve was no piker, had imagination. He could draw, and he's the type of guy a good, sharp guy like myself would like to have working for him so I could ride on his coattails. Needed a good tool. I'm trying to think in here whether Knudsen had left by '70.
Q: You have him leaving....
A: Yeah, '69, late '69. Somewhere in there he'd left, and there was a change in the power of Larry, and we're still playing musical chairs, so Steve came to me. We were working on automobile shows. We started to do holography. Make up proposals for holography, invite people in, make up bid proposals to the Ford Division, Lincoln Mercury Division. This is [the] way we show off the car. The wave of the future. We did a whole series of shows. We got the contract to work with people on a couple of them. One of the shows just went so far overboard, and, I think, that was one of Knudsen's ones where we had... no, that wasn't it. The Knudsen show was where Knudsen was making a presentation to the Board of Directors of our new cars, and Steve Sherer ran it for Larry Shinoda. Steve rehearsed for three days and three nights on how to get these vehicles onto the showroom turntable. Guys wearing white gloves were pushing cars and did a great job. Anyhow, one last thing, the budget was starting to be overrun. Knudsen was spending money. I think about this time Mr. Iacocca started to build a story about how Mr. Knudsen did not have control of expenditures. This was a part of it. Anyhow, somewhere along that line, for one reason or another, Steve was transferred to me, and I capitalized on his coming, and I told him so when he came. I said, "I just want you to know that the only limit to your ability is going to be yourself, because I still am your boss, and I don't want any end runs, no Shinoda-isms, and I will back you to the hilt, and you'll get the best I have to offer, and I expect the same from you."
Q: Shinoda -ism had become a cliche by this time?
A: Well, between Steve Sherer and I. So we worked on the 1970 Philco Ford product show, which was shown in Hawaii . That was a big project.
Q: What year was that...1970?
A: 1970. Wayne Doran appeared on the scene, and we worked on the 1971 Fairlane Land Development projects.
Q: Doran had just assumed that, had he not, about that time?
A: Yes, late '70, I think. There was a Greenbrier [N.C.] meeting, and Mr. Ford introduced Wayne as being in charge of the new Ford Land Company. The first thing of that nature I'd ever been to at all. That was great.
Q: The Greenbrier?
A: Greenbrier. Unaccustomed as I'd been to that kind of luxury. And that's where Jack Passenau, who was in the Ford racing business, was able to have his automobile support people fly in their company jets and fly him in and out of Greenbrier which didn't set well with the Ford family. You can see all this stuff going on. Anyhow, Bordinat said, "What about that?" And I said, "Yeah, it sounds like there might be something, you know. Let's compose a letter to Wayne Doran." "Better still, why don't I pick up the phone and call him," Bordinat says. So, we picked up the phone, or Bordinat picked up the phone, and called Wayne and said, "We'd like to offer you some help." And Wayne said, "Okay." Wayne 's not one to turn down an offer of help from somebody else' budget. So he came over, and Wayne chatted with us for awhile over coffee. And then Wayne and I sat down, and, by this time, I really knew no doubts, I started to feel my oats. I was sailing. I had Bordinat's backing, and he said, "John, go get it." So I talked to Wayne , and Wayne said, "Well, this is what we plan to do." And I said, "Well, what do you have?" Well, the company had contracted with a famous architect out on the Coast who had done a book about an inch and a half thick, [William L. Pereira Associates] and it told about what Ford should do in this land to be developed called Fairlane. And this would take two hours in itself. I'll just gloss over it right now, but that project alone with Wayne Doran ended up with us taking over everything that Wayne was going to do, building a scale model of the whole Fairlane property, the 2,760 acres of Ford land. And pinpointing what is going to [be done] on that land in the long range, showing it to Mr. Ford, being the area where we put together, and Steve Sherer sure did this, a hundred eighty degree movie screen in which Steve and a couple of my other guys that I had. assigned to him, [created].
Remember, I had a budget, and I was holding my left testicle on the fact that Bordinat wasn't going to cut me off. And I said, "Steve, go." "Well, John, I need some projectors." I said, "Just get the things, and I'll...." And Tom Burns, our administrative man, said, "What in the hell are you spending this money for? Those cameras, those photographers, you can't bring them inside the Design Center ." I said, "I'll come in through the side door." And I tried not to put my foot down, but I was getting it. I got a side door entrance to that area. Tom wanted the projectors to be under the control of Design Center photography. And I says, "No way. We're going to be off on our own." And Bordinat backed me. I made a short budget presentation to Ed Lundy and Wayne Doran, showing the Design Center costs.
Q: Lundy at this time was assisting Henry Ford II and Wayne Doran in the Ford Land Company?
A: Yes. That is right. Mr. Lundy was in charge of it. Wayne Doran answered to Lundy. I said, "Any big company making land development, and Wayne knows this, has up front a million dollar showcase. A place that they bring their customers to, to show 'em what they're going to do. They don't sit in front of an office." And here I am saying this to Ed Lundy. And I give credit to the man. He didn't consider me a smart ass so and so. And he said, "Well, what's the budget?"
Q: V.P. of Finance?
A: Finance, yes. I said, "We would like to have, and Wayne has looked these figures over and said we're high. And he's not asking for it, we are--the Design Center . We think we can do this kind of job for you, Mr. Lundy. We will provide design support, we will provide early sketches in order that you may take, to Mr. Ford and the Board of Directors, plans without revealing them to plant engineering or architectural firms. We can do that here. And Wayne is knowledgeable, and...." "How much do you want?" And, I think, I had a "million-two" down. And he says, "You've got it." And, boy, from that time on, we had our projectors.
And so, Steve came up with this concept of a 180 degree screen with multiple projectors, with a programmed computer. And the administrative guy: "You want to buy a computer?" I said, "Yes, I need it." So, I didn't get it [the computer] the first time. We had to run the thing by hand. So our first presentation, I had to do it with Steve. Steve said, "I want to use Aaron Copeland's music to it." I says, "You want to use who's music?" He says, "Well, listen to this, John." And I heard the blaring sounds and things, and I says, "Yeah." And he says, "Now can you visualize this in a forest where it's undeveloped and things coming up to the thing?"
Q: "Appalachian Spring," maybe?
A: And I said, "Yeah, I'm beginning to get it." And I says, "Go." And he says, "Well, I need this and this." I says, "You've got it." "And I need this out of the shop." And I says, "Well, I'll try to get it into the shop," because our shop couldn't build display material. It had to build automotive stuff because of the union law in the wings waiting to get in. So, I got things under the name of a car cross section. And then we would assemble them up there at night. But I was smart. I got a union electrician to do the wiring. I got him on our side anyhow. So, came the day, and we showed it to Gene. And I said, "Gene, you're the first one." Well, Steve Sherer, bless his soul....
Q: This was the presentation of the Ford Land Development?
A: Correct. What we wanted to do was to write a story, a sales book, for Wayne to bring in potential clients that would rent our property, Ford Motor Company, as to what we were going to do in Fairlane. He wanted something to be able to show the Board of Directors to have them understand what the [concept] is.
And so we had conceived this thought of a movie presentation. Wayne agreed to a movie presentation, slide presentation, as well as the models. He had no idea what was going to happen. What a surprise! Steve and his guys went out, and they took photographs from a tripod, a special tripod that Steve had conceived, where you could take one shot, second shot, third shot, fourth shot, and swing--"panorama" the picture.
Add to this, program music, and you can understand we had to go out and hire people that could record the music, synchronize it to the taping and put on the screens. We had to build the display, we had to build the screen, and we built the thing to hold the projectors. We showed this to Gene, and the music came on. It said, "This is Fairlane," or "This is the land," la to to to ta..."It is believed to be the largest individually held land of 2,360 acres. The project, blah, blah, blah. It is situated in the greater metropolitan area of Detroit , a population of 5 million, bustling activity. Located in the heart of Dearborn , which is managed by alert city management." And we showed on the screen scenes of Fairlane, of Dearborn , nearby bustling Metro Airport and a 727 would take off across the screen.
Q: 180 degrees?
A: And, boy, these are the things. And meantime, I had my Industrial Design studio starting to work on drawings of street lamps, and street furniture and things of this nature. It came all together. And Bordinat said, "Let's get Wayne over here." And so we got Wayne over here. We showed [it] to Wayne in the afternoon, and he said, "I want my wife to see this." And she came over. I then called my wife. Steve Sherer didn't have a girlfriend at that time ... some of the guys in the studio... and we sat there and ran it in the evening, and showed the American flag flying at the end of it. They went like this [applause], and Mrs. Doran--tears were running down her eyes. You know... it was there...it did it, and this was behind the scenes. So, Wayne immediately started to open up the door for visitors and clients. And our security person said, "You can't bring in the Chamber, of Commerce." He [Wayne Doran] was to sell the Chamber of Commerce, sell the Board of Directors. Board of Directors, no problem. "You can't bring in outside people." And I said, "Gene, I don't know what to do. I can't lift this equipment up and take it out." Gene said, "No, they'll come in through the showroom entrance. We'll put on a private guard at that time. They'll come up the showroom staircase. We'll have our display staff around there as they come up the showroom staircase, and we'll lead them through this back door." And security was only doing their job. Wayne Doran brought over the Chamber of Commerce. Now the mayor was there. And everything. And based upon that....
Q: [Orville] Hubbard was still in office?
A: Hubbard was still in office and all his entourage, W. Martin and John Nagy, developer, and all these guys sat there. And they were dumbfounded. Here was Ford Motor Company, and they were going to do this. And they were inviting them in, first of all, to get their feeling of it and their comments. And they were all 100% for it. They walked through the models, made presentations, and showed them, invited their criticism. And the mayor was just in his glory. Then Wayne set up a plan with the mayor to fly him and a couple of his top people around the country to show them different developments by Taubman, by Columbia, up in Washington, not Washington ... maybe it was. No, Washington , D.C. area. Down into Florida , into Texas , and we would take these trips about once every week and a half. I say "we" because Wayne went to Gene and said, "Either you come along with me or appoint somebody." Gene said, "You're it, John." So, we'd get on [a] Ford Motor Company private jet with the blessing of Mr. Lundy who was financing the thing, and we would fly to California .
I remember the mayor on one take off. He was heavy, and the aircraft seated eleven. It was a Grumman Gulf Stream II. And it had this sofa that ran along the side of the fuselage. And he took the sofa area and took up two seats. We'd be strapped in. And he took Maureen Keane on a couple of these trips with us, and she was very attentive to him. And there was no hanky panky. On takeoff on one of these flights, I remember him clearly. We got to discussing stuff, and had this extension on the seat belt so it'd get around his girth. And I was sitting next to him, wishing I was at the front end of the airplane. And he was propounding about Dearborn and talking about the ethnic area in Dearborn , referring to Arabs, and how that had to come up. And he got into one part of the conversation, and I says, "Careful, Mayor, I'm a camel jockey too." And he looked at me, and he said, "John, if they were all like you, there'd be no problem." It just rolled off of one shoulder and another. You never realize ... just bang-o, he put me in my place and recognized me for what I was. I've never forgotten that. Of course, Leo Ogozali, who was Director of Air Transportation at that time, had occasion to go out to the Coast, because in that period we were starting to do the 727 aircraft for the Ford Motor Company. When we took off, Leo Ogozali was on the other side me. As we took off he went, like (making the sign of the cross), and I says, "What are you doing, Leo?" And he says, "I always do that when one of my pilots are up there on takeoff." And here was a guy who was in SAC, flew the bombers, strategic bombers, and refueling. things. And he had come to Ford as a 727 specialist, had taken over from R. Hixon who had retired.
So those hops around the country and being met by the Taubman group and being escorted through their development. And Wayne showing that this is the type of thing Fairlane would be, and showing him the level, the Portman buildings and that type of thing. So that was an experience for me as an ongoing part of it. That was just one activity. And, of course, I'd come back and report to Gene, and I'd report to our staff as to what we were doing.
Q: You were sort of on loan, then, for a period of time?
A: Yes, special assignment.
Q: Henry Ford II was pretty much the spark plug behind that Fairlane project, was he not?
A: Yes, well, the taxes on the property were behind it, and Mr. Lundy, being the finance man, was alert and I'm sure told Mr. Ford, in effect, that this instead of [being] a liability, this is what paid most of the taxes, let's have it produce now. And, of course, Mr. Ford was ever mindful of it being Ford property and wanted to be sure it was up at a level. And he paid us many visits. And, in fact, Mrs. Henry Ford II, at that time, led the group of the Board of Directors' wives through. And, at one point in my presentation to her, and I have photographs of her and the group coming through, she said, "Mr. Najjar, why are we doing this?" And I said, "Well, I believe, it's to make money." "But why do we need the money?" And I said, "Well, I don't know, but we're doing this to, etc." Oh, and most of the Board of Directors wives were just as gracious as each could be, and accepted and listened to me as I made my pitch at each display table. And they allowed us to show what Industrial Design was also doing beside this project. So they were exciting.
Q: If I may interrupt you at this point, was this a new concept in automotive companies having a separate industrial design section or department?
A: I would say yes, as being a direct part of the automotive function. General Motors long had had its own appliance section. And, I think, they were more separated from the automotive design, the industrial design portion was more separated from the automotive design than we were. It was Frigidaire, mainly, and they also had their locomotives, and they had buses. And they all came under Harley Earl's domain though. Absolutely.
Q: Oh, really?
A: Absolutely, and I never had a handle on how directly they were a part of it. I knew we were "family" and would call downstairs and say I needed ten modelers for two days and have to pay the studio for using them. When musical chairs came on, I had to rotate some of my guys around. I began to say to Gene, "Look, Gene, you move a guy out of here that's trained in this kind of stuff and put him down in cars, they're going to trade a designer who has no industrial experience." And Gene would remind me, "John, that's the whole purpose." And it was hard to do. I "cried" quite a bit.
Q: I remember also that Chrysler right about this time had Airtemp as well. Were there any other similarities...?
A: I don't know if Chrysler studios did that though. I don't think they did. I don't think that was a part of their design. I think that was independent.
Q: So, in effect, you had a unique situation here, in house...?
A: ...design. For Ford certainly. Absolutely, it was. And it was to the designer. All the schools wanted to send designers to G.M. because that was the mecca according to them. Why should I come to Ford? Well, because at Ford we ensure you don't go into a spot and stay there. We move you into industrial. You have industrial design. Yes, you'll be working on TV sets, you'll be working on transportation, people movers, you'll be working on high-rise buildings, you'll be working on automobiles, race cars. Bingo! We got some of the best guys. That's why Steve Sherer came in early on. During that period, in addition to the Philco-Ford product show in Hawaii and supporting Philco products, we worked on the Fairlane Land Development, and we had the opportunity of fully supporting Mr. Ford in the Renaissance Detroit project. We did the ACT, the people movers system, working with Foster Weldon in the development of that vehicle, the sale of it to the Ford Motor Company.
Q: Still going strong.*
* Editor's Note: The Fairlane development people mover was, by mid-1987, to be dismantled. The Detroit people mover, on a larger scale, began operation in August, 1987.
A: Still going. They did a great job. The fellow, an engineer, John Logan, was the mainstay of that thing. We participated in the exhibit and design for the "Transpo '72" in Washington , D.C. [in which] all the major companies participated. Did the exhibit design for the Spokane World's Fair, Expo '74, that first one. Did the Ford Guest Center building and exhibit design. We did the Henry Ford Museum updating within the museum. All those focal points, all the railings, all the....
Q: Did you work with Jim Quinlan on that?
A: Yeah, he worked for me. He was my project manager. I made sure that he had the time and the people.
Q: Your department did a good job on that.
A: Yeah, he did a good job. I had many fights with him and had a good thing going with him. But I told Jim to do it, and he did it. In the meantime, I had other people. We did the restaurant.
Q: Just as a matter of parochial interest, how did that come about? Was William Clay Ford involved in that.
Q: In having it done, the impetus for the....
A: I'm trying to go back. What had happened was.... Okay, here's the way it started. Ford Motor Company decided that it was going to have a Guest Center across the street, on its property, to launch off this thing. They didn't have the Rotunda anymore. And so, as I mentioned at lunch today, they talked about plant engineering, which is an arm of Ford Motor, hiring architects to come in and design the thing. So it's a long way telling the story. They hired a fellow by the name of Gunnar Burkharts, who was known for good design and "way out" design. He brought in his concept. We were chomping at the bit, and they wanted a place to show it. They decided to show it at the Ford Design Center because Mr. Ford would be over here, and Mr. Iacocca would be over here.
So, Gunnar Burkharts and his staff brought up their models, and we moved our projectors out and cleared out a place for them and stayed off to one side. And they showed their concept to Mr. Henry Ford II. Before the meeting, Mr. Ford wanted to know what Henry Ford Museum would think of it, what their comments were. [Frank] Caddy, [Robert G.] Wheeler, and [Dr. Donald A.] Shelley were invited over. And we stood in the background, and Gunnar Burkharts and plant engineering took them through the proposal. And they were very polite. They were having their own problems because Mr. Ford or somebody else had recommended they wanted activity in Greenfield Village , something going on. And Dr. Shelley's concept of activity was to have chess players. And this was relayed to me by George Haviland who was right-hand man to Bill Ford. Oh geez, boy, that Village sure needs help. "Someday I'd like to work on the project," I said to George Haviland. Anyhow, after they left, evidently Shelley reported back to Bill Ford and Mr. Ford that it was awful. The presentation on that building was....
Q: By the outside firm?
A: By the outside firm. So, Mr. Ford came over and Mr. Iacocca, and the outside firm and plant engineering made the presentation. We stayed out of it. We weren't in the room. Bordinat was there. But, I was outside, standing, to make sure they got up and down the steps right. Half hour presentation, doorway opens, stairway downstairs to the showroom... going down the steps. Bordinat had a show to put on for Iacocca and Ford. Henry Ford is going down the steps first, Iacocca is trailing him, Bordinat is trailing him. The door shuts, Mr. Ford turns to Iacocca and, in an off-stage voice, says to him, "Lee, why don't you have Gene and his boys take a look at it," and Lee said, "Yes, sir." Gene looked back at me with that smile of "We've got it!" Before Gene got back upstairs, I was doodling, and he came back up and sat down, and I said, "Great news, great news." I said, "Boy, I hope that man's stuff is still in the showroom, and he's packing up to go." He says, "Well, we'll fly." And I Says, "How are we going to work it?" He says, "You don't mind what they say, you get started on the design job."
Q: Now you're talking about the Guest Center ?
A: The Guest Center . Two architectural people, Nordstrom & Samson, Inc. had built the Safety Center , had designed the Safety Center across the street with a lovely serpentine wall. I envisioned that it should echo that kind of concept, and, after all, it was Ford Motor Company on one side the road of that wall, and it was largely Ford's and America's past on the other side. And it shouldn't have looked like a World's Fair concept which Gunnar Burkharts had proposed. Which is a stainless steel wavy surface with holes in the stainless steel and flags and pennants flying over it heralding the future is here. I said, "Our best bet, and really from the heart, it should be something that will serve the needs of the future of Fairlane." At that time, the people mover was a viable concept. I can even envision the people mover would come down Southfield over part of Greenfield Village , cut down Village Road , and make a turn right around the Guest Center unloading people and then back up to Fairlane. Therefore, our main thrust would be the second floor, like the Safety Building . I made a rough sketch of it. Steve Sherer was with me, and I called up Wayne Doran, and I said, " Wayne , I need some help." He says, "What's that?" I says, "I can't go to Plant Engineering for feasibility. I can't go to any contractor outside and ask them for help because they may be included for the bid later on, and this might scotch them. So, would you come over and look at something? So Wayne came over, and I sand, "What are some of the rules of thumb?" "Well, what's the concept?" So I showed him, and he says, "Well, John, if you put pillars, thirty or forty feet on the center, put the columns up this way, and you use this kind of thing and this kind of thing, it should net out." I said, "If I do more sketches, would you be willing to take a gander on a square footage cost?" "Sure, I'll help you any way I can, John."
So we went to work, designed the model, and as the layouts went on, Wayne came back, and he helped estimate. Came the day. In the meantime, plant engineering had gotten wind, somehow, that we were doing something, and they wanted to see ... Part of the pitch was where it was going to be. Whether it would be here or down at the end of Southfield or on the property that they had previously exchanged to the Museum on Southfield on the other side of Southfield , North, or whether it would be better served on other Ford property. We had decided that it could go no other place than right here, and if the test track had to be changed to make room for it, [it] should fit there. We wouldn't consider anything else. Plant engineering had gotten together a pitch [as to] why this area was no good--parking and everything else--and were presenting it and were talking to the architect about other proposals. They had been told. Ted Mecke had charge of this program, incidentally. Ted knew: in fact, he had called me to come over to his office and chat with him. He says, "Now, I know you're doing this. I want to know what's going on." I said, "We will keep you apprised." So I went back and told Bordinat, and Bordinat says okay. We finished this model. Wayne had given me some ideas. I put together a booklet--made several copies of them--just for Mecke and Mr. Ford, if he wanted to show it to him. In there I had put down the objective, the location why, what I thought the building would cost. I think it came out to a million and a half dollars. It ended up at a million seventy-five, with luck--and how it should look, and this is the way it would be. We had little models going to it. I called Ted up, he came over [and] looked at it. I told him that that area opposite to the entrance to the Henry Ford Museum should never be considered as a parking place which engineering was putting in because they want the parking. I had the parking place underneath the model, and on top of it I had put a green sward with the continuation of a circle drive. In the center of that area, I put an American flag going up and a sundial of circular columns cut off. And at the top of each of these cut-off columns was a plaque, all done in little scale with description. Henry Ford's bust, Henry Ford II, Edsel Ford, and any other people to come and that this area should be Ford, looking at the past, and this was its future. The circle around here would be an entry.
Ted says, "Let's get Mr. Ford over here." Mr. Ford came over with Wayne Doran, and Plant Engineering came over, a man named Tom Dunlop, but if looks could kill! Oh God. I don't blame the man, but my point to his next lieutenant was, "Go to your boss, tell him you want to design it. You don't want to farm it out to anybody. Stand up and do it." "No, it's got to be farmed. That's our procedure, to farm it out." I said, "Well, give him better direction." So Mr. Ford came over and said, "That's it." Incidentally, he turned to Ted and said, "Whoever Plant Engineering has on it, that Gunnar Burkharts, offer him the job if he wants it. If he builds it like this, fine, give him the job."
Well, I had made a pitch to Bordinat before. I said, "Gene, you accused me one time of not having brass balls. It was when Wayne Doran was talking about the lobby of the Renaissance Center , and I said to Wayne I was doubtful whether our staff could handle that size of thing." He says, "You don't ever turn down a contract, you take it. I will tell you." So when this thing came up, I said, "Gene, I want to build this building. I can get Nordstrom and Sampson. I can have them answering to me. I can control a budget. I've proved it. I'm handling a million plus budget right here." "Well, John, there are times that are not right to propose." I don't know if Gene ever proposed it to Ted Mecke or not, whatever it was. And Mr. Ford made the comment, and, yes, Plant Engineering wanted the job, yes, they would built it like the model, and, yes, they would offer it to this guy. So they left.
Gene and I and Steve did a war dance around the model and said, "Oh, what a wonderful thing." As it turned out, the presentation up in Gunnar Burkhart's office up in Birmingham was made to Mecke to show him how they were going to build the building. I was not invited to any of these things.
Q: This is the outside architect?
A: Outside architect, to the development. Gene kept saying, "What's happening, what's happening?" I talked to Plant Engineering, "Well, he's (the architect) making some changes, some little angle thing in here." I said, "I'd like to see it." He said, "You'll see it when Mr. Mecke sees it." So I picked up the phone, and I called Ted Mecke, and I said, "Mr. Mecke, would it be too bad if I saw it before you did?" "No, I'll arrange it." I went out there and looked at it and heard the pitch. They kept part of the building--part of the rudiments of it--and they were changing certain things. I said, "How come you dropped this?" "Well, this is it." I said, "Well, that doesn't look like the approved model."
So I went back, and I told Gene, and he said, "Well, pick up the God damn phone and call Mecke." I called Mecke. I said, "Mr. Mecke," and he said, "Call me Ted," and he said, "Bring your pictures over, John. Come over, let's sit down in the office." So I said, "Look, I've done enough to Plant Engineering, but when we get a car approved by Mr. Ford, it damn well comes out like that car or we tell him why. And whatever you see up in Birmingham , Bordinat and I recommend that you discuss it with Mr. Ford." "But what changes have been made? What did you see up there?" And I said, "Significantly, from the eye, the general view, and that's what Mr. Ford looked at, not necessarily the details and building, this is what's changed: glass panels have changed from this to this, and it looks like an invention in or a test of architectural skills in using guy wires to hold up steel walls. There've been deviations in this." And he said, "Well, what else?" I said, "They've got a part of the building outside now." And I said, "I hate to use and lose floor space that way but....
I was invited to the meeting. I kept by mouth shut during the whole meeting, and Ted looked at the thing. He said, "Yeah, that inside outside is pretty good and the way you slashed the interior at a diagonal rather than the original rectangle looked pretty good. He was letting me know that he was not about to change it. And he said, "But that structure, that wall structure is God-awful. What happened to the keeping of the serpentine wall behind that? I want that changed before you show that to Mr. Ford." And so they changed it.
And as it turned out, Mr. Ford walked into that finished building and took one look at--the building was supposed to incorporate an executive room where guests could be brought in from all over the world and have a meeting and have a luncheon up there, catered, of course. And he looked at that sterile steel wall and the awful look of it, and he said, "I don't like this. Redo it." And I don't know if Will Scott was with Mecke on this or not. One of the two called me and said, "John, we're in trouble." I said, "What do you mean we're in trouble? What are you talking about?" He says, "Well, we've got to do the interior over." And I said, "Well, do I have to work with Plant Engineering?" "No, you don't have to if you don't want to." I says, "Well, if they'll do what we draw, we'll take a crack at it. It's got to be done in a certain time." And I said, "We'll do it. We'll do it, believe me." And so we went over there, and Jimmy Quinlan worked for me on the project. We handled the whole thing. And I forget now who was in charge of the Guest Center . We talked it over with him, and we said, "What do you need? What would you like? What are the level of people that come in here? How would you feel comfortable?" We didn't just lay it on him as a demand, we asked. And so we had a little model built of it. And I had a concept of how we could bring down the ceiling, how we could make it soar out to the sky. And it worked. And we got Philco-Ford to redesign some products to fit in that room. It had a bar in it. It had all the stuff.
Before I got to that point, the day of the presentation came. So Bordinat hears the stuff for the change of the room. And Mr. Ford had requested Bordinat and Mecke [to bring the proposal]. And he (Bordinat) said, "Well, I'm not going to take it over there. You take it." And I said, "All right." So I went over there. Mr. Mecke was in the showroom, and Mr. Ford was there. I didn't take anybody with me. I had the little model. I had swatches of material. Mr. Mecke said, "Bordinat and his people have looked at this, Mr. Ford and John will make a presentation." "John, Mr. Ford." And I said, "What we propose is this. Propose to take the ceiling and let it soar up this way, so you get a feeling.... Drapery to the ceiling ... Paneling on the wall this way, entrance mirror, this
type of material for this." And I was doing it at a good pace. Not nervous, for a change. Mr. Ford was great, Mecke was great. And Mr. Ford looked down and says, "It looks pretty nice, can it be done, Ted?" And Ted said, "Yeah, we can find the money for it, it can be done." And then Mr. Ford said, "John, I don't like this material." And he started riffling through the book. We also had the chairs we were going to put in. And I looked at him, and I said, "Mr. Ford, there are three things. [Three things Mr. Ford had done to our designs, and I recounted them to him.] You sold the 747, you rejected our 'world' sculpture, and you don't like the wallpaper." And I said, "This isn't my day." And he looked at me, he was stunned, and, I guess, he didn't know, and a smile broke out on his face. He put his arm around me (and I'll never forget that part), and he said, "John, any day you come in, Ford is ahead." I could have cried.
I said, "Mr. Ford, I will pick out a couple more wall paper samples now that I know what you don't like, and I will give them to Mr. Mecke, and he can show them to you." He said, "Fine, John, thanks" and went out. Mecke was happy. You know, he was on the wire. And he says, "John, okay." So Plant Engineering picked it up and did the drawings to our drawings and built it.
Q: And it worked out beautifully.
A: It worked out just great.
Q: That's a fabulous edifice over there. It's so sad to see it not being used.
A: Now it's an office of some kind, a training center.
I'd like to recount before the tape ends, something that happened when Knudsen left. Knudsen left, and all the support for showcars, industrial design, everything were up in the air. Mr. Ford wanted to see what Knudsen was doing because Iacocca made an issue of it.
Q: About '69?
A: Yes, it was the last of '69. So Bordinat said, "One of the things Mr. Ford wants to look at is the Industrial Design area, and I want you, John, to make the presentation to him." He says, "No way am I going to stand there and have Mr. Ford hit me." So I knew I was going to be the guinea pig. Concurrent to this, I had given up smoking about two years before this time, my beautiful lovely cigars. Mr. Ford was late. He came in through our doors. I had worked my fanny off designing the industrial design area, and the second floor Design Center is a thing of beauty. We had designed it, scrounged out a budget. Mr. Ford came through the two swinging doors and said, "Gene, I've only got fifteen minutes. Take me through this." And Gene said, "I'd like to have John do this. He knows it first hand, Mr. Ford." And I went back and said, "Mr. Ford, you, of course, know the wide screen area. You know what we've done here with Wayne Doran and Mr. Lundy fixing this up. You know of our support on these models. What you aren't aware of is our complete support on the graphics for automotive design. In addition, our purpose up here under Mr. Bordinat is to let automobile designers come up here and get recharged, get the challenge of new vistas, and go back down and get a new feeling. And that way we don't have to go hire other people of this nature. This is the work we're doing for Philco-Ford. This is the clock... and this is...." And I took him through the whole thing. "This is our stereo room, this is the kitchenware for the Fairlane development. And here is what we're doing with the People Mover. And what we're doing with the vinyl group." He left three quarters of an hour later, and he turned around to me and said, "Thank you, John," and he says to Gene, "Thank you, Gene, and this program continues," and walked out with Gene following him. As they waited for the elevator, Gene looked back at me and smiled. Later on, Gene was downstairs mentioning to some people and said, "There was that old pro up there talking to Mr. Ford and taking this walnut block and opening it and saying, 'Look Mr. Ford, there's a....’”
And later on Mr. Ford paid a couple of visits, and Lord Mountbatten was one of his guests. Every time he had an out-of-town guest, he'd come through, and I'd be given the assignment to be escort. One of the things we had created was a stereo wall; it was an idea I'd had where you hook up your stereo set, and then you had a divider wall that went from floor to ceiling and was made out of vinyl materials from our vinyl plant. And inside the divider wall were platin speakers which were flat speakers, not coned. We hooked up the stereo to this, and, evidently, Lord Mountbatten got tired in the walk. I had a lovely chair sitting next to, and he sat down there next to this stereo wall. And Mr. Ford flipped down, that was the one thing he knew how to run in our place, he flipped down this record player which had a tape deck on it from Philco-Ford. It was wall stereo equipment. He pressed the "on" button, and the volume was up high, and Mountbatten jumped about from the blast of noise. Mr. Ford said, "I'm sorry." It was just his idea of showing that these things are workable. And they jested about that and walked on out.
After Mr. Ford left, after that first review and approved our program, I went back in my office. And I said, "Dorothy Calpin," who was my secretary, "go down to Art Querfeld and get a cigar." She came back with a cigar. That was it. And Gene called me later; we went over to Dearborn then, and he had a drink.
Q: That was a triumph of the Industrial Design Department.
A: Yeah, that was a milestone.
Q: So, the Industrial Design Department is nicely established.
A: Yes, and it's growing. And, as I said, we had worked--I'm trying to say how our relationship with Henry Ford Museum went. So after that visit, we were asked to invite the museum people back to look at the new concept of the Guest Center across the street. And they came over, and they looked at it, and they said, "0h, this is so nice." Because now, by this time, I had built the front of the Henry Ford Museum , scale, and the entrance to the Village and showed how it nestled in here. And that Mr. Ford had said, "No, there won't be a parking place there." They were so happy about it. And as they left, Frank Caddy [President, The Edison Institute], was hoping that we could work together in the future. And George Haviland [aide to William C. Ford], was part of it. I said, "Well, if there is something we can help you with, let George know." So George came back to us and said, "They're talking about doing the inside of the Museum over again, and they've contracted a designer out in California . Would you like to do something for that?" So we made a couple of proposals, called them back and said we could do this for X number of dollars. And I said, "We'll go." They had already contracted with the guy in California to do a part of it. So that began our romance with them [the museum].
Q: Since we have only a short time, do you want to develop that a little? How did that whole project work out?
A: Well, before that started, Dr. Shelley and others knew that he had to be a better host to the guests as they came through the Museum, and they wanted to develop the restaurant. They also wanted to develop a sales center outside of the ticket entrance Greenfield Village . Shelley's early concept was a loggia like Mount Vernon . I didn't know what the word loggia meant. He kept referring to it, and I went to a dictionary after he left. It [the loggia] had two arms off the main entrance, curving and one was to be the restaurant, and one was to be the sales center. So I built a small model of that. Also discussed was the restaurant, and it was indicated that Plant Engineering was taking a look at it and wouldn't we? And so we developed it in the spirit of the buildings of the Museum. As time went on, we built the models of it, presented a Plant Engineering proposal of a glass-walled edifice--concrete, glass block--nestled in the corner of the Henry Ford Museum . We had proposed a "Red Lion Inn" which had complemented the structure, and Mr. William C. Ford and Dr. Shelley agreed, in effect, that the complementary one was better, and one arm of the loggia was to be built, not as a loggia, but as a separate building. So, based on that participation, and Dr. Shelley's and Caddy's feelings, especially Wheeler and Caddy, were the mainstay, that Design Center had empathy and understanding as to what they were trying to achieve in the Museum.
Based on that, they asked us to do an overview of how the interior
of the Museum could be rearranged or reworked. And so we said, yes, we'd look at it. We'd spent two or three weeks on coming up with a proposal for them. So Jim and I went back through there, James Quinlan and I, walked back through [the Museum] as guests. And we looked at it and looked at it. We understood there were several centers: an industrial center, a transportation center, and, when we came back, we said, "Let's build on that." What's lacking in the Museum is that you walk in it, and it looks like a garage. And if we had our way, we'd clear out 30 or 40% of the equipment in there and put it out in the backyard so people could get a better look. You can't look at a thousand reapers. It was cluttered. So we came up with a concept of focal points, placed around the Museum, and, hopefully, each focal point would be able to be seen from one focal point to the other. Therefore, it [the focal point] must be on a raised dais and provide a comfortable place for people to sit. And we would look at color. We ran the gamut of covering up the hangar-like windows up above and how much money we could spend. We worked on an Avenue of Shops, talked about putting cobblestones down. That was thrown out because ladies' shoes could turn on it. The imagery of vinyl wood cobblestones on it was fake, so let's keep the floor in. And based on that, we had a task force of two people working constantly with Jimmy Quinlan, meeting weekly with the Museum people and going through each of their centers, their focal points, making sure that each curator was talked to. And that everybody had a chance to look at the retaining ropes, or the little guide rails. Jimmy Quinlan came up with the idea of putting carpet underneath the things to provide islands of vision. And he and I were on opposite ends on how the retaining ropes should work. His [idea] won out. He won out, he was right. And then he refurbished some of the cases that were kind of old, rather than build all new ones, display cases. And Jimmy himself is of such a nature ... He had worked with Henry Ford in doing offices, and [Philip] Caldwell and ,other people, and he knew how to treat people and get their respect. He couldn't have been a better guy or done a better job. And on that basis, they weeded out about 30% of the automobiles and rearranged things and were completely happy. I was the one that insisted on all display legends having a type size [legible] for fifty year old eyes. "You should try to get your type so that fifty year old eyes could look at it without glasses." So, it was a very happy relationship.
Q: It's worked out very well.
A: Yes, we were delighted.
Q: Well, that's very good. I think we're almost to the end of this tape for this session. I would like to leave us here in....
A: The last part of '73 and would embark upon industrial design continuing through '74 in which we did the Ford special aircraft 727, the Corvair, the Grummans, and we did a special Mustang II, display room over in the Ford division for Mr. Iacocca, and continue from there.
Q: Fine. So if we can cover, in our next session, the continuation of the successful Industrial Design concept within the company.
A: Then, my leaving it.This is May 17th, 1984 , and this is the fourth and final interview with John Najjar in our continuing Design History Series, and this is Dave Crippen.
Q: John, I wonder if we might continue where we left off yesterday, but I'd like to ask you a rather leading question. We are very much interested in the impact and the influence that William Clay Ford had on Ford design history, and design history in general. And since you were fairly close to him at one point and have watched his career, [I wonder] if you would mind expanding on that.
A: Mr. Ford, Bill Ford, loves automobiles--loves them--and this is attested to by the fact that the Continental Mark II was a separate entity away from the production type of design we experience at the Design Center . He had a special group work on that vehicle, and the control that he exercised over that design and the systems he went through letting designers do their job--presentations--formulating that vehicle, was a statement that he had an appreciation for good design, and he was a good manager. As the fortunes of the company went in different directions, it became important to the company that the design department become one, and, so, in 1955, Vice-President under George Walker--after Walker was appointed and Bill Ford's separate [Continental] department was dissolved and brought under the aegis of Ben Mills, and the designers were put under myself and Bordinat. Anyhow, it had quite an impact on
William Ford to have lost his separate organization, and he was made Vice-President of Design, among other duties. I believe for a while there he had sort of lost the direct contact with the Design Center , but it didn't last long. He would attend meetings with George Walker, and, in fact, their offices in the Design Center were adjacent to one another, and I am sure that although he was not visible in the studios during the normal working hours on the daily program, I experienced many times, on an after-hour basis, that he would come back into the studios and walk around the studios and chat with us about programs--specifically about design. From what I heard from my level, he did attend all the major presentations where the management of the company were requested to approve specific programs, so his input was there. When Mr. Walker left, Mr. Bordinat was appointment Vice-President, and he took the office right next to Mr. Ford again, and, I think, the contact grew a little stronger. Mr. Ford, being a designer, at least in my opinion, understood that you don't ride herd on a designer to get the best creativity, you give him his head and let him go ahead. Fortunately, for the company, at this time--or unfortunately, as you want to see it--Bordinat was the best combination that could have happened at the time--terrific designer, good appreciation for design, and, above all, he had an understanding of the management, production facilities, control of the company, and he was very articulate. So, therefore, in his discussions--a few minutes discussion with Mr. Ford, once a day or several times a week--Mr. Bordinat could fill in Mr. Ford as to the basic programs, the directions we were taking, and with a few series of photographs, keep Mr. Ford abreast as to what was going on. And Mr. Ford, being the kind of man I envisioned him to be, and experienced him to be in some cases, he was too gentle to step forward and force his opinion on the people. If he liked the presentation brought up to him, he would not say, "Well, that's very good--but why don't you try another method?" He embraced the concept that Bordinat had presented through his designers, because he knew it was a team effort. So I would say, no, he did not force his personality any more than his father, Edsel Ford, did. He had the spirit of Edsel Ford-a quiet demeanor, and you knew that the knowledge was there. I could ramble on for hours, but that was my impression of him.
Q: I wonder also if in that same context you can evaluate the entirely different situation under Henry Ford II--President and, eventually, Chairman--and his role in design decisions. From what you said yesterday, [this] seemed to stem from the sort of final decision, after all the steps had been taken.
A: Well, the Company--we never forgot who ran the company, who had full control of it. And that was [with] a heavy gloved hand at times, and a gentle feather touch at other times. There was never any question that F-O-R-D was the name of the building--the name of the company. Mr. Ford, who, I am sure, was not only privy to that level of meeting, would sit down in long-range planning with his vice-presidents in charge of each of the divisions. They would have to make paper presentations saying, I think the Lincoln or the Mercury, or whatever vehicle it may be, should go in this direction--market support says it should be this kind of vehicle--design says it should look like this, and Mr. Ford would agree or disagree with the overall direction. He'd say the vehicle should be a little shorter, or longer--"I believe this direction is the right one." In meetings that I was privy to and during the presentation of the 1958 Lincoln , he exercised strong opinions. A typical show day for the vice-presidents and Mr. Ford--if the weather was nice, we'd roll the vehicles, the clay-models, out into the courtyard. If the weather was inclement, we'd take them into the showroom. There'd be several vehicles in the show--sometimes several studios would participate--with the Edsel, the Lincoln, the Mercury, all being shown concurrently. Messrs. Ford and Breech would walk by each vehicle, and the stylist would make the presentation on the vehicle. I remember one day Mr. Ford and entourage stopped at the back end of this 1958 Lincoln, and Mr. Ford had remarked that the blades--the top of the fenders, quarter panels--were ending kind of abruptly and looked a little too severe and should be sharpened a bit. He would add details such as that to express his opinion. But he never came out and said, "Your design philosophy is awful, it should follow the evolution of Bertone." I never witnessed that, but he may have said it at other meetings. But there it was as an influence--it was a positive influence coming in. In a couple of instances--I remember one thing, as an aside, there was a show in the showroom, and the showroom began to fill up--Mr. Ford was in there with several vice-presidents. Each vice-president had his product planner, the product planner had his group of staff standing there, and the chief engineer was there for each car. He had a couple of back-up people there with heavy black [note]books. We chief stylists were there, with George Walker, and I had a couple of my people with me. Mr. Ford came into this meeting, and the showroom was full. He looked around the showroom, and, evidently, it got to him, and he politely said to the vice-presidents, Ben Mills and a few others, "Let's have the showroom cleared." And out! Just can't make decisions of this caliber. So everybody, including myself, moved out into the Design Center [showroom lobby] area, and we sat there and waited. When Mr. Ford was done, he came out, smiled, and nodded his head, and we were each called in by the vice-president and told what Mr. Ford had said. So no question on that, he was not about to have his words, or his statements, or his opinions, echoed throughout the company below a certain level, and, evidently, he made some strong statements.
Q: It's interesting that you were always aware, though, that he was up to date on current design trends. He knew what he was talking about-aside from his personal opinion.
A: Absolutely. He knew car models, and he knew competition--Chrysler, General Motors, and [other] names were not unfamiliar. Performance was not unfamiliar to him. He could talk color, talk shape, with Bob McNamara he could talk production volumes, with the manufacturing people-talk tools--just an astounding display. And, of course, being the boss helped to make it even more astounding, but it was there.
Q: Another thing, following along that line--under Henry Ford II the company made several attempts to work with Italian designers, as I recall, over the years. Do you know anything about that?
A: Very sketchily--Mr. Henry Ford II traveled around the world, obviously, and he loved racing cars, had a high respect for the Italian designers, and, for the life of me, I can't remember the name of one vehicle, but it was about 1953-1954. Mr. Henry Ford II saw this one vehicle over in Italy and had it shipped back and said, "Why can't we do vehicles like this?" About that time, George Walker was on the scene, and the X-100 was started--a low [slung] vehicle--but it was the American version of it, with the chrome, the bronze and the push and things. I think Mr. Ford was trying to say, as early as that time, "Why can't I have low, sleek-looking, clean, tastefully ornamented vehicles?" And through the marketing staff and other people's influence, I've got to have the razzmatazz, I've got to have power, I've got to have push--he pulled back a little bit, and he left it to the Lincolns and other special vehicles to satisfy this desire. Later on, in the 1960's, [in] the Design Center , I am sure, with the help of Henry Ford II (Iacocca was in there), specialty vehicles were starting to make an impact--the racing car impact, the flashiness. I shouldn't say flashiness--the package that the Italian designer worked with--he designed for a two-seater, midengine or rear-engine, low-slung vehicle--completely disregarded the need in America for a 4-passenger, 6-passenger vehicle. So there was one task force that was put into play--Gene Bordinat could probably tell it better--where the Design Center was given the task of developing a 5-6 place passenger sedan, and that same objective was sent to Italy, and, I think, there were three Italian designers asked to meet that package, that objective. Forget the little, low-slung, 2-passenger thing that anybody, you know, can really make a winner. So these vehicles were done over in Europe -- Italy --and they were shipped to the United States and shown along with the American version. And I would say that there was some cheating done--cars were a little bit lower, and certain dimensions were changed by the Italian designers. They just couldn't accept the fact that they had to get up to this vertical height and this spaciousness to accommodate these number of people--and the [their] designs fell apart. And the Design Center 's design won out, but there were certain little quirks on the Italian cars that were picked off and moved over [to the Design Center version]. So the Italian designer--there was one that Mr. Iacocca had hooked up with--DeTomaso. He had been a race car driver- -sort of rich in his own right--and we had hired him to do a couple of cars, and these would be imported and sold in the United States . And, I think, they built a few of them and....
Q: There were a few abortive attempts in the 'Sixties and 'Seventies--like the Pantera.
A: That was it, and there was a falling out. DeTomaso wanted more money or did not want to fall into the plan of working with the vehicles. But that relationship over in Italy grew into the fact that we found out--Bordinat found out--that the Italian car body builders can build our show cars and special cars cheaper and swifter than we could do them in our own [State-side] shop. For the same price that we could build a fiberglass, non-operable vehicle, they, in Italy, could take our fiberglass shell, convert it to metal, or use the fiberglass shell and swing doors on it, and open hoods, and put it on an operable chassis for the same price that we could just have a fiberglass dummy model. So that began the relationship of having a design arm in Italy . And that continues today.
Q: I wonder if we might continue your career narrative from here.
A: Right. I remembered something I had said on the last tape about the presentation of the re-design of the management room at the guest center ...a few things that I mentioned to Mr. Ford, and I could only remember two of them at the last tape, and the three things were.... We had designed a 12 foot round sculpture of the world, showing all the ocean currents, the world's geographical divisions, and on this world sculpture we had pinpointed all the Ford locations--even if they were only general sales offices. This world map was to be installed in the London office and was completed and finished and sent over to London . In London , Mr. Henry Ford II, at the recommendation of the architect (Jones), felt that it was not just right for the offices there and suggested it be shipped back to the united States . So a few days before this meeting with Mr. Ford on the re-do of this guest center's reception area, the sculpture had come back. So that was the basis of my comment to Mr. Ford: "You didn't like our world map, you sold the 747, and now you don't like the wallpaper...." I just want to correct the record.
Q: That was a long time ago.
A: Just shows the type of people.... Incidentally, if I may, I've always been prideful of the fact that I have had the opportunity to talk, however briefly, to Henry Ford I, had talked with Edsel Ford, had many, many discussions with Henry Ford II on a one-to-one basis, briefly, but in several meetings, talked with William Clay Ford, and had some discussion with Edsel Ford II as he started his career at Ford Motor Company.
Q: Before you begin, that reminds me, would you round out the trio of grandsons--what about Benson Ford? What kind of impact did he have on styling?
A: Mr. Benson Ford dealt mainly with the Lincoln-Mercury area, and he, again, like most of the Ford Family, was very quiet, made his statements, had good taste, would patiently listen to the presentations as they were made--no comments. I would say his contribution was his good taste and understanding for design. He was just a pleasure to be with in meetings. But he had asked one time if we can do any special little cartoon for him, which I took on, and it was an 18x24 drawing of the female mammary glands, showing various sizes and with automotive titles listed below them--such as horn buttons and gas pedals, things of this nature, showing that there was a sense of humor also. It wasn't only the formal business of running a business--there was a human side to it.
In the year of 1974, Ford Motor Company decided that they were to have an additional aircraft, and they purchased a 727, and it came from the Japanese Airlines. At that time, Ford Motor Company had [an affiliate] in Japan , and, I guess, Japan 's rules said that they couldn't take money out of the country. But they could take out things, so they took out the 727 for, I guess, a couple million dollars. At that time, Iacocca, Mr. Ford, and others in the company were required to really travel around the world, and the Grumman planes (which they had) had to make a couple of stops in getting to Europe. And, in respect for big business, time is important, and time is money, and decisions are important-to have that person at that place at the proper time so that they could be made in correct timing. Thus, they were required to sometimes be in Australia , sometimes in England , sometimes in Germany . And so to make it more convenient--the 727 was one of the best aircraft, and still is, could be serviced any place in the country, any place in the world, and parts could be obtained for it. So this 727 was modified. We were told that we could participate in the design of the interior. This was a breakthrough for the industrial design office, and we did that on the 727 which meant the placement of the seating--the people on the aircraft carrier, how will they be placed, how could the aircraft pay for itself? Although the 727 normally carried--it was a non-extended version, a 727-100 model, not the extended 200--and the 100 carried roughly 110-115 people, and no way would Ford Motor Company carry that many people to the meetings, nor was it going to be a personal airplane for two people. So the rear end of the aircraft, the aft compartment--carried about 30 people in the aft section--steerage, if you want to put it that way. From that point [forward] there was a main section, and then ahead of that was a stateroom, and, as this aircraft went to Europe, it could carry additional passengers [in the aft compartment] in order to pay for this flight. The idea was always there that it would not be an expense to the company. The studio also designed the Convairs which carried 35 people on the "milk runs" from Metropolitan Detroit down to Nashville and further on down to Muscle Shoals and carry a large number of people that had, on a daily basis, to make contact with the various plants. And the Grummans were continued to be maintained by the air staff. So that was quite an experience for the industrial designer and the car designer to get their feet wet in these new disciplines. And, again, the disciplines of aircraft were kind of stringent--you couldn't just design heavy, ponderous items--they had to be designed with light-weight material which required a different task from the designer. About the same time, in '74, the Ford Division was prepared to launch its all-new Mustang-heralding a new concept for the Mustang, which was called the Mustang II. And the Ford Division wanted to bring in people from all around the country to show them this wonderful new thing. They decided to have a guest display room built over at Ford Division, and so the industrial design office was asked to design that, which we did. It was built and was a great success. In 1974, and that whole period, the Renaissance Center, working with Mr. Ford, John Portman (architect) and Ed Lundy, was quite an experience watching that grow from architectural drawings, a model, into a full-fledged building.
Q: What was the impact of the Industrial Design Department on the Renaissance Center ?
A: The Industrial Design Department--before the architect was picked, we were asked by Wayne Doran to make presentation material showing the different sites of property available in Metropolitan Detroit [where] this concept of Mr. Ford's could be built. And, if I may make an aside, the concept that Mr. Ford had was something that would help the City of Detroit and the greater Metropolitan Detroit, to make it a viable center, to give it new life, and we had named it Renaissance, within the company. Later on there was a contest, and we couldn't say anything about it, but somebody won it by [proposing] giving that name, but it was a re-birth, a coming back. So early on, Wayne Doran, with Mr. Lundy, wanted to present to Mr. Ford various alternative choices of property sites, what it could look like, what its densities would be. We were given the task with Wayne Doran to take these mental formulations of square footage and convert them into a little model. We elected to pick the river site, and our concept consisted of three triangular shaped buildings, going up about 50 stories high, spaced widely apart, so it would not damage the view of the river, and a lot of green space. The presentation was made to Mr. Ford, a plan was laid out by Mr. Doran, and how they could bring in--with Mr. Lundy--General Motors, and other supports, so it wouldn't become a Ford project. Mr. Ford was very positive about this. He did not want it to be identified as Ford's development. If all these people are going to be contributing, somehow this had to be set aside from Ford Motor Land Development, a separate entity set up so the money could flow in, and everybody could get credit. Our model was shown to Mr. Ford, the plan was shown to Mr. Ford, and he said, "Go ahead." Then the next phase of the game was that a selection was to be made of the property by Mr. Ford and others on the staff. Then came the problem of selecting which architect. Wayne Doran gave a list of them to give to Mr. Ford, and John Portman was selected. And, at that time, we offered John Portman, who had come up and looked at our presentation on Ford Motor land development, the development of Fairlane, and he was impressed by it. We had, at that time, offered to assist him any way we could. Well, being the architect and having his own staff, no way was he going to let us participate. But as the time went on, Wayne Doran found that he was going down to Atlanta , looking at drawings, and the sketches and the drawings weren't quite enough to show to Mr. Ford and the group. We convinced Wayne that we could build a model of it, and even take Mr. Ford inside the [proposed] building. With some reluctance, Mr. Portman sent us up his plans, and we went down [to Atlanta ] on a couple of trips to look at the details. We came back to the Design Center , I put Steve Sherer in charge of it, and a model of the Renaissance Center grew. It stood about 6-7 feet high, was on a display table about 7 feet x 7 feet, and we took photographs of this model, illuminated it on the inside so you could see nighttime shots of it. For daytime shots of it, we did background photography showing how you would be standing inside the building--you could basically take a walk through it, then we made this presentation to Mr. Ford and Mr. Portman, and they liked it. That presentation, in fact, was picked up and moved by Mr. Portman and Mr. Ford downtown to the Economic Club--showing what was to come, and it was also moved to the Chamber of Commerce and the Detroit City Council. The models were carried down there and shown. That made quite an impact. Along about that same time, in '72, Ford Motor Company, at Mr. Lundy's direction, with Will Scott, was casting about for other ventures to expand the company's base. They had been into Philco-Ford, and Aero-Nutronics was starting up, and they wanted to check to see if they could get into lowcost housing--the rage then was people movers--into small, ancillary companies that were just emerging, such as the garden appliance field. And so the Industrial Design Office was contacted by Will Scott, and we went off and started to contact these different activities and [took on] the responsibility of ferreting out these new businesses. Thus, we got into doing homes that were built on a modular basis, like wooden trailers, that could be built in a factory and shipped out. I think it was called "Concept Environments." In California we worked with an emerging company called Orline which was doing garden tools and designed and developed a handheld snow plow with them, and a hand-held chain saw--doing design concepts for these companies, which didn't have design staffs of their own, so we put a few hours into helping them. And the biggest one was the people mover, the automatically-controlled transportation--ACT--and, of course, Washington was in on people movers. There was some funding that we were trying to get out of Washington , but it ended up with the concept being created and developed and installed in Fairlane. The two Parklane towers, with their connecting low building in between, was to become the platform at which you debark from the people mover as it swung across that building. So, the plan was to go from World Headquarters North to the Parklane Towers , West to the AAA building, past the medical building, into the Fairlane Town Center and into the Hyatt Hotel. And, hopefully, we had envisioned plans for it to go down to Greenfield Village and make a tour, but we found out that it cost, at that time, about five million dollars a mile. We had put in just under 3/4 of a mile into Fairlane, and in no way could Ford Motor Company stand that cost. So it was quite an experience. The Governor of Michigan was in to look at the ACT--we had built a full-sized model of it in the Design Center basement, and as we were the guest center for Wayne Doran's Ford Motor Land Development, we were the guest center for the automatically-controlled vehicles. It was quite an exciting time, and the vehicle is still working. To go over the years 1970 to 1979, the impact of the oil embargo quickly curtailed the company's fortunes, and other [automobile] companies' fortunes. There was a pull-back within all companies, and the impact we felt at the Design Center was that no moneys were suddenly available to have the Design Center do a Glass Division movie, or a Glass Division booklet, which we finally did. People were starting to retrench, pulling their budget tightly, and the first thing that was lopped off was the Industrial Design. As the business declined, Industrial Design fell back on its mainstay, which was doing all the graphics for Ford Motor Company products--all the name plates, all the ornamentations, speedometers-anything dealing with lettering. It was also decided that a director title was a bit much [for the department] to carry, so they decided that it should be held at the manager level. I was called in the office and told that I was being transferred to the truck and tractor studio to work for dim Sipple, and I worked there from 1974 to 1979--as an assistant director. And this was kind of nice for me because my salary grade was
not cut, and it felt good to me. During that period, we designed the 1979 trucks and the all-new 1980 trucks. We did a "Courier" light truck for Japan , a new CL heavy truck, an LTL heavy truck and production show tractors. But Bordinat had never forgotten that I was a highly-paid assistant director, and I should do other things in the truck studio, and so he would entrust to me the responsibility of designing all the [unique] programs that came by, and one of those was the 1978 dealer presentation display, which was held down at the Renaissance Center . I designed a display called "Meeting the Challenge," and it took the person from initial design vehicles within Ford Motor Company--how we designed them for People and Package and things of this nature--and showed the impact of government mandates on design. It showed how we did a package interior box, and as this show concept wound around the [hotel] corridors, there were titles and drawings showing how design at Ford Motor Company was done. At the end of this area, we had the production vehicles that were being introduced in that year and how we met the challenge of cost-cutting and oil performance. At the very end of the presentation were three or four cars which said, this is predicting the future. The show was a success, and many of the dealers came through there. In 1979 it was decided that Ford Motor Company would have a world-wide management meeting to be held the Renaissance Center , and people would be called in from around the world and talk about Ford Motor Company and the future--how we are going get back on [track]. And my task on that was to design, at the Design Center, a day for the wives of management, to come in and look at design, h w it went, and the future. I developed a program there of what aerodynamic means, what clay modeling means, what design meant, how it was done, women's growth in the company--so they would have an interest and an understanding of some of the buzz-words, so when they met with their husbands, they could talk about things that their husbands understood. And certain of the management men came back for a private showing so they, too, could see what we were showing. So that was the type of thing that I engaged in from 1974 to 1979. I could go into details on each of the trucks, but, again, I found trucks to be a little challenge--they had to perform--and now there was less opinion about how they looked, there was more of how they performed and how were they perceived by the trucker and not by some guy establishing design for them.
Q: In that regard, I wonder if you would mind if we threw a few questions at you that you have already seen, that Jim Bibb suggested that may be apropos--what was Jim's sphere?
A: Jim Bibb--as I remember him, was in product planning, and also engineering, and in the truck area. If you ever worked in the truck group, those engineers and the people that had the product planning, had to work close to the vest. They somehow never had the big budget, yet they made the biggest profit. As I mentioned in the last interview, for instance, the light truck produced a million copies a year. Mr. Iacocca had made 500,000 Mustangs in one year. It was nothing for the light trucks to achieve that, and the profit on the light truck was fantastic. Yet Caldwell, and Cappolongo, Petersen, and others played the budget close to their chest. The profit objectives were kind of big for the truck People, and they--to bring back the story of multi-purpose product Planning--had an understanding, they knew the vehicle--and Bibb was one of the people that worked on that staff under Lundstrom. I have to pay tribute to him.
Q: I am glad you did. The truck seemed to have been kind of the bread and butter item of the industry, the one with the lowest budget, the least cost, and brought in fairly good profit.
A: That's absolutely right.
Q: In terms of styling--did you find your sojourn at the truck design department challenging in the sense that it presented a different set of problems than designing cars?
A: Yes. When the cars had to go by a percentage, you could say they were 25% shape, 75% substance--meaning the engine, chassis, had to perform. If it didn't do that, and let's say 25% was perceived by the customer, it had the most performance levels, and you could identify with it. Whereas on a truck, they had to be 95% certain they functioned, and the rest of it was--design. And different types of trucks required a different change in their percentage--for instance, the big heavy trucks, the big Louisvilles and the CL's, had more model function. As you got down into the light truck, it had to have function, but it also had to have that appearance. So it required more attention to function. But, as the years went by and performance was required, and aerodynamics of the passenger cars appeared, there, again, you just couldn't put a pretty shape on the thing. The aerodynamic function of that vehicle formed the shape, and, fortunately, the two came together very nicely. So there was more function.
Q: In recent years, though, it is my impression that in the 'Seventies the trucks came into their own as good looking, as well as utilitarian vehicles.
Q: You may well have had some impact on that concept.
A: I think we did. I mention once again, the Ford--a family look--that recognition was very important, the recognition of that truck was important to the VP in charge of trucks. He understood that, he wanted to recognize a Ford truck a mile away, if he could--F-O-R-D had to stand out. And truckers--the big heavy end were always going to the Peterbilts and Kenworths as being the standby, and those were images that we had to pick up. It was not just a skin. design, but from the outside to the inside, Ford trucks looked substantial, looked smart, looked rugged. And that's what we tried to achieve. But then we pick up a theme there again was that diamond theme that we established early in 1964--that same shape--it had served us well, and still served us well throughout all our design.
Q: Did you have anything to do with that huge turbine truck of the late 'Sixties, early "Seventies, that carried around a Ford show for a time?
A: Yes, my participation in that was doing some grille work on that and doing some of the coloring on it. And I try to remember the basic vehicle--it took off of a production vehicle, and it was gussied up with chrome and paint stripes and some grille texture.
Q: Is it still around?
A: I have no idea.
Q: One question that seems to strike both you and I as a key one--how does the C -series, tilt cab, forward truck, which is still in production after almost 25 years, continue to have a fresh style and be a leader in its class?
A: That vehicle, if I remember correctly, was designed by Bill Wagner and Bud Kaufman in the truck studio. It was a box, in effect, and it just happened to have that happy marriage of all good shapes, all good design, and was just a damn good concept. And that's why it has lived so long with only minor changes, such as in the grille area [where] I was able to effect some changes and the impact of lighting--side-lighting by government mandates and things of that nature, tack-ons. But the basic design is still there, because the designers had appreciation of its function, and it was to provide good visibility for the driver, so they made a good, wide windshield. The door panel had a jog in it with a controlled window vent which was located so the driver could look down to the ground slightly ahead of him and had a good visibility in the rear. I just wish I had designed it.
Q: Something which intrigues me--how were you able to guide the thoughts of your styling bosses and corporate officers in developing a [striking] truck image when the corporation styling was so passenger car oriented?
A: Well, it really wasn't that hard, because the man that was in charge of the truck group, such as Philip Caldwell, was mindful that the truck had to compete with the competitors and not with management within the company--it was out in the marketplace, and it had better look very "trucky." The Design Center was fortunate enough to have those truck people believe that we could do the job and give them that appearance, a marriage of function and truck--so it wasn't really a heavy task, and the other members of management that had approval authority for the truck, understood that, and they stayed away from the form of automobiles.
Q: The Louisville series, which I think you had much to do with--can you give us a thumbnail description of how that started and how that went?
A: The truck group--they weren't in a separate division, they always fell under the Ford Division--had long wished that they could get into the heavy truck range with a volume of trucks. They were in it, and a small series of trucks were going up through there, but now they wanted to flush it out and do some trucks that filled more specific needs-cement mixers, with a set-back axle--which meant that the nose protruded, so that the distance from the back of the cab to the front of the bumper was as short as possible, still having the engine over the axle position, and the driver behind that in the back position rather than over it in the cab-over series. This vehicle must compete with Mack and Kenworth, and, at that time, Mack and Kenworth were into fiberglass shells on the front end, and so we followed that concept, that the front end should be a light-weight thing, the cab must be durable. So the Louisville series was started. It had been a dream of the truck division for many years, and it could never get the money [allocated] to it--the huge amount of money dedicated to build the tools, enter this market and take the gamble. Finally the decision was made to start off and see how it would look. So we started a series of 3/8 clay models--we must have had about 6 or 7 3/8 clay models showing the various traits of functional vehicles that would fill the L-series range of trucks, and also the different designs that could fit on them. One of the designs came up as the diamond grille, and the diamond shape, the tumble home shape, flowing into the cab, and everything just seemed to come all together because it was shown in 3/8 scale, shown in rendering form, and got the green light to start in full size. So we had to pick it up from there--it had to have a high degree of interchangeability, and one of the things to reduce the interchangeability was to have the same door fit right and left. This was a huge task because we, at the Design Center , wanted to angle the windshield aft in order to make the air flow easier over the cab, but the cost of tooling won out, and it had to have an interchangeable type door. And it still exists in the Louisville cab.
Q: Jim Wagner asked--we wonder how John Najjar's influence was directed at the current Ford truck styling, and I am interested in your input on these--the Ram, the LTL 9000, the CL 9000 series, and, finally, the Ranger series.
A: You can see, by the number of projects, that we had a busy studio. At overtime, we had a staff of about 5 designers--Charley Phaneuf was my right-hand man, so he basically had 5 people underneath him. On the Ram--which was a code name for the all-new 1984 truck--itself, subjective, because of the impact of the oil shortage and the cost of gas, the objective was to make the Ram still carry the same loads that it had, but to be dramatically reduced in length, height, and overall width to help achieve a lighter weight truck. To that end, a number of Rams were developed--program Rams--and they were built in clay-model form, and sent around the country for interviews and reviews--surveys by various trucking people. The Ford Division was after rounded surfaces because they had had success with our '67 trucks, and they were slightly rounded with a feeling of heftiness. When you take something like 4 inches out of the middle of a truck and still carry [three with driver] two passengers, the body size suddenly starts to be a vertical wall rather than a shapely wall, so our task was to try to get some of the conventional, the physical shape back into the vehicle. The other thing in putting shape back in the vehicle was function. You couldn't take a piece of sheet metal and run it for 36 inches on just a stretch form, you had to put some character in it to give it stiffness. But what we had designed in the 1967 Ford, was the long body side-spear that ran from the nose to the rear end of the vehicle, terminating in the taillamp. In the subsequent model-I think it was the '69--I take it back--so we had '67 Ford truck--there was another truck in between there done by Jim Sipple, which had taken the protruding body side spear, which had been accepted by the industry as giving it strength, and recessed it. In recessing that spear as a concavity within the body, Jim had pulled the body shell outboard, gave it a more rounded surface--that was a successful truck, and the Division liked that. But when we pushed the body side in, there was no place now for all this excess space. So what we did, we indented, and gave it a groove front to rear--on that particular truck--and then put character around the wheel lips. That was a real challenging task to take all the way. In our presentation that we presented finally to certain dealer people--my part of the program was to talk about the truck, and talked about "How would you like to lose 600 pounds on your diet program? We went through a diet, and we took off, roughly, 6 inches around the middle, we took a little bit off the length, and this is how we achieved the weight reduction." The dealers liked the truck, it still kept a feeling of heftiness and strength. We also had to make certain aerodynamic objectives at this time.
Q: An aerodynamic truck?
A: Basically a box with rounded corners, but, nevertheless, we were going to achieve performance improvement and plan little spoilers underneath the front bumper, the shape of the front bumper, the shape of the hood, the little details around the window moldings--all went to improving the performance of the vehicle. On this light truck, to get that feeling of massiveness, I came up with the thought that, in plan view, instead of the grille and headlight running in a relatively straight line, what we will do would be to let the plan view width run out to the width of the grille, and from that point the headlights [headlight frames & bumper] were to be angled aft, giving that chamfered look. I argued that the chamfered look would make the nose look like it's thrusting, have power, and it would be functional. They said, "How so?" And I said, "Well, you are doing a U-turn, those corners will no longer be there and give you added turning radius," and so that chamfered look carried throughout that truck, and, again, if you look at the design concept, we had a diamond look, edges--here the chamfered look was now being brought in. The taillights had a chamfer, so that they would wrap around on the body side and give side illumination and not requiring the company have a separate light for side light--so it became one. And that wets a costly thing to do, but they figured it was worthwhile for the look.
Q: Can you explain the term "chamfer?"
A: Chamfer is--when you look at a corner, which is a 90° intersection of two planes, horizontal and vertical, chamfer is a 45 0 cut, eliminating that corner. I don't know how else I could say that. It's a softening of the corner, but not with a radius but with an angle--a chamfer.
Q: The Ranger has been particularly successful. Is that gratifying to you?
A: Yes. The Ranger was started, and, along with the Ranger, was started the mini-van package. We knew the Econoline was big, and the dream of the designer for the last 10-15 years was to develop this lowprofile van, combination of a little light truck and the Econoline, and our loss of Hal Sperlich and Iacocca to Chrysler, along with a few other people, indicated that the idea did not germinate at Chrysler. It wasn't conceived at Chrysler, it was conceived at Ford, and grew into fruition at Chrysler because it was a good thing, and the Ford group were never able to amass the millions of dollars required to put this vehicle into production. From the designer's point of view, it was--seems to have been first again, but it was missed. That was growing out of the studio as a running counterpart with the Ranger program--and the Ranger was to be the baby truck--and, here again, the same principles were applied, and they could look as strong and bold and still carry the Ford line. And, here again, the little chamfer surface is still maintained. And that had to go through aerodynamics, and that was one of the programs that was just being completed--one of the last trucks that I had designed just before I left. During the same period we worked on the CL. Jim Sipple had started it when I first came on board in 1974: he had the basic concept of the truck done, but I was able to exert some more influence in there on finishing off the diamond grille and the details of the vehicle. This was a great vehicle, it had great innovations in it, allowing Ford Motor Company to compete directly with open competition. It had a special, floating ride feature--everything designed so the truckers could really climb up into that cab, it had built-in handrails on it, had sleeping compartments--truly a luxury truck, because that particular breed of truck is owned to a degree by independent operators who live in the truck day and night, so great attention was paid to it. The LNT 9000 series was Ford's introduction of a heavy truck, with long nose sticking out the front of the cab in order to house a powerful engine. Here, again, we put in the diamond-shaped grille, the chamfered surfaces, the swept-back headlights, the strong-shouldered fenders, paying attention to aerodynamics again. And as we got through, it was harder to do, but it could improve the performance by 1/10.--it was certainly worthwhile. The color programs on that, and the engine cover had a tilt forward, there was a lot of fine designing and engineering going on to achieve the look and the objective. Going briefly back to the [original] Louisville--in order to have good performance, oil cleaners were mounted traditionally on the outside of the vehicle on many of the trucks, and I was not about to have the oil cleaner sticking out through a design of this diamond nose on the side of the hood. I challenged the engineers to [see] if the oil cleaner could work horizontally as well as vertically--yes, it could. Why couldn't we mount it horizontally into the hood? "0h, we don't want to do that, it would be a tough job!" But we convinced the head of Ford Truck that it would improve the appearance, it would improve air flow, and so that L-series truck is running around today with its air intake in a circular form off the side of the hood. And that, too, is the air intake on the LNT 9000--to the credit of the engineers, that intake comes in from the louvers on the side, improving the appearance.
Q: You mentioned the Peterbilt truck a few minutes ago. Did the popularity of that design have any influence on the heavy truck series that you pioneered in the 'Seventies?
A: I would say, all the trucks had an influence--Peterbilt had its look, but it had the radiator--the radiator was on the outside, and it has chrome going around it--was especially functional. And the grille was functional. But in order to meet our cost objectives, no way could we afford that big heavy chrome, so what we did was to bury the radiator underneath a fiberglass and stamped metal grille. When I left that studio Jim Sipple, I believe, became a part of it, and, under his aegis, they developed a chrome band that fit over the fiberglass, which gave the impact of--that the radiator was a solid cast radiator. So, yes, the image of Peterbilt and Kenworth, with their exposed heavy radiators, were reminiscent of the old steam locomotives. Here is the power, and spotlight there in front, and a big ornament with its bulldog up on top, and we tried to achieve that with less costly methods. That less costly method also made the truck lighter, which in turn gave us a chance to sell it at a more economical price and improved performance.
Q: I noticed also that, probably under your regime, truck interiors became much less utilitarian and more....
A: True, they did. However, the Design Center had been divided into an interior group versus the exterior group, and so a whole different group had charge of the interiors. As we stepped out into new shapes on the exterior, interior studios went even further with the interior of the vehicles.
Q: You mentioned the mini van, which had such a success at Chrysler, and Hal Sperlich. Hal Sperlich might well be one of the underrated figures of this era, especially--would you not agree--in product planning?
A: Yes. Hal Sperlich was a dynamic individual, very creative, alert mind, agile with figures, understanding, primarily, the marketplace, the need for having good vehicles out there, and that is why Mr. Iacocca had him under his wing, off on the side, always in there pitching. But for some of the members of management, he may have been a little too pushy, a little too dynamic, a little too bold, a little too outspoken in some of his statements, even though he may have been a hundred percent right. It would just be an [abrasive] thing. But as a designer, relating to Hal Sperlich, I found him an understanding product planner. I did not work with him a hundred percent of the time--in fact, it was really minimal. Gale Halderman's career paralleled Hal's on a much longer basis. But I found him completely mellow, when he talked about a vehicle, and, if you want to get this, it was for Ford Motor Company, it was for the product, it was for the market--it was not for Hal Sperlich.
Q: The Aerostar Van--did you have any input into that? The one that's going to be introduced in 1985, I believe?
A: No. Only the early studies that we had done when we were doing the Ranger, and kind of pushed for that kind of vehicle. In fact, some of the derivatives off the Ranger--using the Ranger front end and windshield and trying to put a mini van configuration where the pickup box is, and _t just never came off. It looked like a tack-on--a wart on the nose. When it was designed for itself, and there were a couple of attempts at that, it looked good. And, I think, Ken Spencer, and some of the Ford studios had the task of doing some of these vehicles.
Q: In terms of competition in styling among the latter-day trucks, Chevrolet has had fairly good success with the S-10, versus the Ranger. How did you view Chevrolet truck styling in the last decade?
A: As tough competitors, who always were able to get a little bit more money in their budget--I would put 10% factor on it to achieve--we had achieved as much as Chevy did with less. And that task was throughout the whole truck area, that's why the profits were so good. We would drool at some of the things they were able to do in the casting of their grilles--grilles have stopped being stamped grilles, and were becoming molded plastic grilles, and to get the plastic people of Ford Motor Company to step up and do what G.M. could do and was doing. They played catch-up, and they did a pretty good job, and we were able to achieve a lot of the look. But they were a formidable competitor, and, as we heard through the grapevine, they worried about Ford--Ford had done several things, and--I can't trace it down, but there is a complimentary remark when I was moved back into the truck studio. I don't know who recorded it--but, "John Najjar is back in the truck studio." It was kind of nice to hear something complimentary from the truck people at G.M.
Q: I want to bring you back--before we complete your career summary--to the Mustang. One anecdote which I've heard is in the naming of the Mustang. This was largely your input, and that you got a call from a General Motor's stylist, or product planner [Chuck Jordan].
A: Well, we were working on this vehicle, and John Breeden [design Public relations],, bless his soul, had indicated that if we were going to be using this name and seriously consider it, we better check the AMA--Automobile Manufacturers Association--to find out if somebody else has got it....
Q: You have to register these things?
A: You have to register the name, correct. So John did that and found it was not registered, so the procedure was established, and it was done. Then John thought it would be a good idea to start dropping a little notice of it and got permission to do so. So he contacted Mark Beltaire, I think it was him at the time who was a prominent Free Press columnist, and the words were: "Ford has a Mustang in its corral." Obviously, Chuck Jordan and various other people over there had read about it in the paper, so [he placed] a direct phone call--which was quite a rarity. I had met Chuck several times through the IDI, and he was a top-notch designer. G.M. found, in effect--Bill Mitchell never believed that G.M. should join any association because "we are the best"--but others in General Motors broke off and tried to join and were pridefully bringing down their designs. Anyhow, a chance to talk to Chuck. So Chuck called me on the phone--"I understand--are you guys doing a car?" I said,
"Yes." "Are you naming it Mustang?" And I said, "Yes." And he said, "Damn!" And I said, "Why?" "Well, we are doing a special car for Mitchell--I have the nameplates--I have all the ornamentation on it, all set to go, and now we can't use the damned thing!" And he said, "Got any other names?" and I sort of giggled a little bit, and I said, "Mare, stud, stallion," and a few words went back and forth, but that was how I remembered what happened. So they had to change all the nameplates for Bill's car.
Q: The naming of the car is really part of the design process, isn't it?
A: Well, the code name, although doing cars within the Design Center in the earlier days, you always gave it a code name--call it something. Never dreaming that that would be going into production, but, as it turned out, many times the names that we picked were used for production. Bob Maguire was a great one in the 1955 period on to ask for many names--I still have in my files a thousand names of different vehicles, and they were based from fish through animals, astronomy, world places. When a car was developed, we'd take one out and run through about 6 or 7 names and say, "How does this sound?" I remember on the Mustang, in effect, coming up with a list of names, and the studio came up with a list of names, and Maguire would sit back and he'd say, "That sounds too much like a fish--I go and jump in my Fish," and we would go back and forth and--the name Mustang generated then--became one of a number presented with things to Bob Maguire. And we just said that the name Mustang was going to be--it sounded natural, get out and jump on your horse--away you go. And that's the way that happened.
Q: A couple of those that you considered later turned up--I think the Maverick turned up later and also the Bronco--so the horse image has served you well.
A: That is right. For a couple of years, it was a good lead-off. Italian names were good--names that connoted luxury, or special cars--LTD's and famous cities, yes.
Q: But Ford seemed to stick to pretty much American, especially Western connotations.
A: We had, I am trying to think back, on the Edsel, they had to come up with something like four or five names in a hurry, and I remember Roy Brown, Jr. [Edsel designer] rushing around, trying to get special names for these series within the Edsel line.
Q: The Citation, which was a horse. The Pacer, which had an equine image.
A: You are right. In fact, AMC called Ford Motor Company asking permission to use the name Pacer, and it was granted. Yeah, you are right, it did pick up the horsy sound [but] it never picked up Stud, yet.
Q: You mentioned Bill Mitchell, and that led me to thinking, in this final wrap-up session with you, about your feeling regarding your opposite numbers at other car companies--indeed, other large industries, in terms of, first, automotive design, and then industrial design.
A: Top-notch people, cream of the crop--and we had a few of these at the Design Center, but not to the degree that they [G.M.] had--leaders in design, calculating--I mean by that, thoroughly researching--design staffs' compete acceptance by the corporation for design--at least, it appeared that they had. Their accountability and their decision-making in design was more direct than we were at the Design Center . And what I mean by that is George Walker or Bordinat were never held accountable for the design--they may have gotten brick bats and allowed to make presentations to management, allowed to make a recommendation, but to my memory, were never allowed ever to say, "Well, Gene Bordinat, you know design, you make the decision as to which one we'll do," and we all envisioned that. Although G.M. was not there, they were closer to having gotten that trust from company management than we were. That was something for us to try to achieve.
Q: Would you say that Bill Mitchell at G.M., who has left his mark on several decades, pretty much called the shots in design and decisions?
A: Not as much as Harley Earl--Harley Earl was the top-notch guy, he did call the shots, because Harlow Curtice let him do it. When Bill Mitchell took over, he was an heir apparent, a protégé of Harley Earl, and had trust of the company. But certain managers in certain divisions felt that they should still have an influence on the vehicle. Bill Mitchell, although dynamic and strong, was not as strong as Harley Earl. And I do not think the man in charge today (Irvin Rybicki) is as strong as Bill was.
Q: Do you have the feeling that the G.M.--the G.M. committee approach extended into styling as well? In other words, no one man--outside of, say, Harley Earl--really impacted on a design decision. It was still kind of a committee approach?
A: I have a feeling that the vice-president in charge, Bill Mitchell at the time, would, with the division manager, pretty much agree on the recommendation that they were going to make to whatever approval 'Level they had to go to--so there was still some give and take. But, early on, G.M. was noted for their interchangeability and their ability to camouflage a common body. They pioneered that and really did an effective job, so in order for that to work, somebody had to design the basic body. Somebody had to create the possible offshoots for the various divisions, and that had to come from a single type of brain--uniform action--and that emanated from the design area. So I would suspect that Bill Mitchell had to convince the top management of G.M. at that time that this body shell would allow for each division to have their own identity, and then he would have to bring in the division people to prove to them that he could deliver. The design area of Ford Motor started much the same way--started a pickup that was a successful thing. The introduction of the Edsel was to be our first spin-off, and evidently we did not go far enough--it was touted as being a mechanical improvement, and people saw through [it] quickly that it was a Ford body, in effect, coming up to be an Edsel, and a Mercury body dropping down to be an :Edsel. It was not brought off with the polish that the G.M. people would have brought it off, in my opinion.
Q: In terms of styling at the Edsel Division, Roy Brown was the chief stylist there, was he not?
A: That is correct.
Q: I remember seeing a mockup of the Edsel just before the decision was made, and I found it very exciting, but for some reason the American public did not. Do you have any thoughts along those lines as to why it failed--stylistically as well as technically?
A: Well, as a chief stylist at the time, I sort of liked Roy Brown's concept of the vertical theme--echoing the LaSalles--cars of that nature. But like all designers, you feel, "Well, I could have done it better...I could have done it a different way." But here I had designed the '58 Lincoln--which was not a striking success in itself--so, all I can say [is], it had a little bit more dignity, a little bit more style, more flow than the Edsels had. The Edsels were blocky--had a lot of chrome on them to camouflage the basic body shape, and, in light of the concepts that were on it, if you had this vertical nose, there was not enough distance between the front end of the vehicle to the A pillar to allow that vertical nose to grow back to the width of the A pillar gracefully.
It snubbed in, and the little horizontal wings that came off it were stubby. The Edsel would have had a chance if it had been taken off the 60-series "Quick Silver" Ford body--which was the last of the Edsel series, where they had this length/width to play with. Where the horizontal blades on the grille deck lid showed up with the vertical little taillights. There was room to take these new concepts and let them flow into the body--so the Edsel had some good thought in it, but the design themes on the Edsel did not have the length to be carried out to allow the surfaces to flow and suffered from a lot of chrome ornamentation.
Q: In terms of internal policy, it is my impression that Roy Brown was, in a sense, exiled to England after the debacle.
A: Well, nobody wanted to be associated with the Edsel--it was the vultures feeding. "Well, I only had the interior"--"All I did was the steering wheel...." But Roy was a good man, and, I think, Bordinat did transfer him to England . They accepted him over in England to do a job, and he did it.
Q: Why don't we bring your career up to date, and then we'll talk philosophically about your feelings about automotive design and the relations with the key people involved.
A: Well, in December of 1979, I was invited into Mr. Bordinat's office, and he suggested that I retire. At that time all parts of the company were reducing staff, and those of us that were near retirement age could be shown that our income would be held at the level it would normally be until age 65, through a special treatment--it's called the Golden Glove now--some people got a bigger Golden Glove--I got the standard Golden Glove.
Q: The golden handshake...?
A: The golden handshake. Gene did it personally--Mr. Bordinat did it personally, in inviting me to do this. I had no choice in the matter. I asked one question, I asked, "Gene, does Mr. William Clay Ford know about this?" And he said, "Yes, I discussed it with him." And I said, "Well, that's it. I'll just go. Period." A long time ago Gene had told me over cocktails in Wisconsin , on a trip we had taken to a school there, that over the years--although I was not the best car designer--I delivered And Bill Ford had told him that as long as I wanted a job, I could have it. I didn't remind Gene of this on my departure day, but as long as Mr. Ford had known I was leaving, that was fine with me. No problem. So I left in December of 1979, and that was the end of my career at Ford Motor.
Q: Were there others of your tenure in the same situation in design? Was there a general sort of across-the-board kind of attempt, or was it sporadic?
A: It was throughout the whole level of the company--they just didn't pick on design. Obviously, an assistant director carried a good salary grade, so those got to be the first to go, and I saw the handwriting on the wall. Others were--directors were not quite near it. Jim Sipple was eager to leave--"John, I wish I were in your boots. I could get out now." And I was not happy about it, just wasn't ready. I thought when I'd say I'm ready, I'd walk out the door to save two designers. I wasn't given that opportunity to make that gesture--I was told--and that's what hurt me most of all. But, yes, there were other designers--a couple of the directors that were nearing my position, but through the whole design department. From the basic people in the shop areas through the designers, through the administrative staff, anybody in the age [range of] 55 and above were being looked at to see if it was possible for them to move out.
Q: It's my impression that about this time there was a rather large reduction in the basic design force--the clay modelers, the artists....
A: In addition to termination--retirement--there was the layoff. And this was horrendous. I think the number of people at the Design Center had reached 1300-1400 people. And, as I *say, each area of the company had specific objectives--like design centers reduced their budget by 15%, and this translated into money, how we could cut corners on money, and was left translated into people. I can remember several things where we had these programs going, and we weighed people against these programs and found out if we could cut this program, we could cut these people. We had to improve on efficiency. So, yes, it was a dramatic and. sorrowful time where a lot of young people left--were laid off from the company--because they couldn't very well take a man who had 15-20 years in, performed well, was still 15 years away from retirement, and have him or her go out the door. So, it was a sad time.
Q: And I suspect that when times got better, they sorely missed these young designers that they had let go?
A: They missed the people that were gone. But, by the same token, the reduction in force forced new efficiency, forced multiple responsibility back on the people, and hiring people back became paramount. Whenever an opening occurred, the lower echelons were reviewed--could this person fill in? And for a long period--k-5 years, I guess, after I left--it wasn't until just recently that they started to go once again to the art schools and start to pick up people. But paramount in Bordinat's mind-the company's mind--was to get these people back on board, if needed. And they weren't to just grow.
Q: George Haviland poses a series of questions, which you have reviewed and have agreed to, at least, try to answer. I wonder if I might give you those now. It's sort of an overall survey of how you feel about Ford and its evolving design studio. He said, "How did styling evolve as a separate organization within the Ford Motor Company?" Is that a fair question?
A: I can remember reading about little things, but my personal experience is that it was Edsel Ford's desire. Ford Motor Company had been using the Briggs and other designers, plus their own engineers, to put shapes on vehicles or design the things, and I don't know how Edsel met E.T. Gregorie, how that evolved, but it was Edsel's order--demand-that a separate department be established to look at design and see if design couldn't be done within the company. And that's how the story goes.
Q: Mr. E.T. Gregorie, of course, exercised a great influence on Ford styling in the 'Thirties and early 'Forties.
A: He was the one whose responsibility it was to--from '35--oversee and develop the design area which was established in 1935. I don't know what preceded that, or to what extent he had an influence. I know E.T. Gregorie and Eddie Martin--Eddie Martin had joined E.T. Gregorie at this time, and working on the drawing board, alongside of each other, and I don't know what brought Edsel over to E.T.'s board, but from that beginning sprang the need for a separate department. And E.T. did do that, he gathered people wherever he could. The original design department--when I arrived in 1937, which. was two years later--had grown to the number of about 35 people. A metal shop and wood shop was created--people from experimental engineering--pattern makers and things of this nature were moved in there to do this kind of work. Clay modeling had been started and had been a tool used by General Motors and other people. So plaster people--people in plaster casting or plaster sculpturing were brought in. A man by the name of Dick Beneiki--who had worked on the Fisher Theater and many other areas--was brought in, and knew how to shape things in clay so they could make plaster molds, so he became the leader of that. Design--I don't know the history of John Walter, Bill Wagner, to a great degree, and Brono Kolt or Walter Kruke were the mainstays of design when I went into design at Ford. So, E.T. had taken this force, including Eddie Martin who, primarily, was a good, top-notch craftsman--superb letterer--with an appreciation for line and had created this beginning task force to start doing vehicles.
Q: So, in fact, although Ford was not as advanced in having a styling department as G.M., and, perhaps, Chrysler had, E.T. Gregorie was pretty much who brought it forward into the modern world.
A: And Edsel would come over and sit in E.T. Gregorie's office and would whip out a pad and draw some sketches, and bring in small cars from Europe, and Edsel would talk to E.T. about what he saw over there, and about graceful cars, and it became E.T.'s concept to work on the first Continental. And, of course, I shared in working on it.
Q: Before we get into the Continental, I would like to probe a little bit more. Do you remember ever meeting Walter Dorwin Teague?
A: No. Never met him personally, but read his books.
Q: Apparently, Walter Dorwin Teague was a good friend of Edsel Ford's, and Edsel Ford liked his work and used him on the 1934 World's Fair--the Ford exhibit in Chicago --and also on the Dallas and the San Diego World's Fair buildings, as well as the 1939 World's Fair. There is some indication from some correspondence we have between Teague and Edsel Ford that Teague wanted to get into automotive design as well.
A: Oh, I never knew that.
Q: But, he was gently brushed aside by Edsel who said, "I enjoyed your work, you did a marvelous job for us at the World's Fair in 1934, but we have a--we have a pretty good group here in styling, and I do not feel I would like to rock the boat at this time." And Teague graciously agreed.
A: Very interesting. Very interesting.
Q: And because of that, I am reminded that--although you talked about it at some length on the earlier tape--can you give us some final thoughts about the development of the original Lincoln Continental and the respective roles that Edsel Ford and E. T. Gregorie played in that rather momentous styling milestone.
A: Oh, a little bit, I think. I don't know who gave the order to go ahead with it, but my first memory of it was E.T. Gregorie having a discussion with Ed Martin about how the vehicle could be made from existing panels, and it was not to be a production vehicle, it was supPosed to be a special, personal car for Edsel Ford--and, evidently, E.T. had done a couple of other special cars for him. But this--in order to come together quickly, E.T. envisioned a low vehicle, using major panel parts off of the Lincoln-Zephyr, and so he assigned Eddie Martin to do some drawings--a mechanical drawing, side-view profiles--from sketches that E.T. had made. As far as I'm concerned, E.T. had done the original rough, heavy-pencil sketches of it, and Eddie Martin did some line drawings--1/10th scale, line drawings--I have a couple of them in my possession yet--showing that this panel or that fender could be cut. A pattern had been developed to take existing sheet metal and be able to chop, cut it, channel it and put together a special car for Edsel Ford. This was done, got it delivered to the Design Center , and we looked at it, and it was beautiful--except for its color--it was a mustard-looking yellow--and we quickly named it "excretion"--"shit brindle." Not using the word excretion. It had been driven around the test track a couple of times and found to be very shaky and kind of loose, so E.T., who had prided himself on also being an engineer--knowledgeable—suggested to the engineering group that they weld in some I-beam channels, in an X-fashion, just ahead of the cowl to support the vehicle in that area, which they did. And the vehicle was shipped--I don't know, driven or shipped--but it was delivered to Edsel Ford in Florida , and he drove it around, and people liked it, and soon it was suggested that we start looking at it as a production vehicle. That's basically the story. It had Bud Adams in the early part--as I worked with Eddie Martin on doing tenth-scale drawings--Bud Adams did a clay model of that little vehicle. There was some concern whether the cabriolet roof would fit, and I did a full-size layout, and cut out cardboard arms and showed how the roof could collapse into the area--not by engineering but taking science as it was then on collapsible roofs, and tailoring the arms to fit--just to show that it would work. And this blackboard--this 1/10th size, scale model, and some of the little layouts evidently were shown to Edsel, and the early model was built. And after that, we went into production.
Q: And the rest, as they say, is history.
A: I might say that each of the designers on board at that time--Walter Kruke, Johnny Walter, Bill Wagner--all had input on that vehicle as it came to them for their specialty--at that time the design department was divided--somebody did grilles and taillights, somebody did door handles, somebody did interior instrument panels, and somebody did interior fabrics--and so there were a lot of people. The sheet metal was done by E.T. Gregorie--it was kind of a family approach.
Q: I wonder if I might ask you a bit about George Walker--a fascinating character in Ford design history. Obviously, not completely successful, but how does he fit in the pantheon of Ford designers? Where would you put him? And how would you--how do you feel that his methods--administrative, and his design ability--square?
A: Well ... George created his own industrial design company, and in order to do that--in an era which design was just being accepted, and required the guy that headed it--he had to be able to go in and meet topnotch people of a company--to talk to the top [echelon] only, rather than coming through the bottom door, because it gave him greater influence on design. George had to do that, and, in order to do that, he had to be seen in several places. He had to attract attention. George was an impressive individual. He wore clothes with a flair. He was able to take a pencil--a very heavy pencil--and take a plain piece of paper and draw female fashion. He was able to draw the attention of the potential client to an idea on a piece of paper--so, basically, the rudiment of design and appreciation for it. He was smart enough to--as his responsibilities grew--to pick up several people who could work for him, and he picked up Joe Oros and Elwood Engle--two good, dynamic [designers]. Elwood was with G.M. for awhile. People had picked up George's confidence--you got to be able to beat this [design] you got to be able to deliver--and they, too, went after clients. So one of the people that Mr. Walker became friendly with was Mr. Ernest Breech, and when Ernest Breech went to Ford Motor Company, George's fortunes became quite strong. I think I might stray a little bit here because--trying to think--V.Y. Tallberg was in Engineering at Ford Motor Company during the pre-war years, and somehow he had asked George Walker to do some steering wheel designs, I think. I think it was just before the war, and that was the first chance George had as a consultant and brought in steering wheel designs, and that was George's first introduction there. And then, after the war when Henry Ford II had started to have Ernie Breech as chief advisor--Mr. Breech had suggested that George Walker be a consultant. But George Walker was facing an enemy--he was facing an enemy in the in-house design staff. As we figured, he was an enemy being brought in, therefore, there was no love lost between the two groups, and they were going to do a better vehicle than the [in-house] design staff did. So the competition was ingrained in the man--like everybody else--not a front, it was there. And he used people. If they could draw and make presentations well, he brought them to the foreground and let them make the presentations, and he'd stand off to the side. He'd go into a Meeting and say, "We have this vehicle here. Joe, why don't you talk about it," or, "Elwood, why don't you talk about it." It was on a limited basis, not like any of the formal, big shows. So George was lavish. When he would come into some of the meetings as consultant, and was going to show some of the stuff, he thought nothing of flashing a $10 bill to Dave Ash or to myself and say, "Here, run over and get me a box of cigars." And you'd go and get the box of cigars, good cigars, bring them back, and he'd take two of them out and say, "Keep them." That's how Dave Ash and I got to be better cigar smokers. And he would pick certain of the employees, if they did certain things, and be nice to them. And people sort of liked that. So George used every known--I won't say "trick," but "method" to have people like him.
Q: To ingratiate himself....
A: That is right, and George was smart enough to know he did not know interchangeability, he did not know production figures, he [couldn't] care less about that type of thing. All he was interested in is having a shape on the vehicle. Design was tops, and, "I will get Mr. Ford and Mr. Breech to say that that's the design, and you engineers build it that way." It was sort of a strong push that way. In fact, the 1958 Lincoln was done a little bit that way--engineering was resisting--body engineering was resisting doing certain things, and Ben Mills was making pronouncements--he went into Henry Grebe [Chief Body Engineer], and said, "Look, we don't have the time to go through all the details and nuances of engineering, we want your birds-eye look at this thing. Can you build it or can't you?" And George was right there telling Mills that that's the kind of decision you have to get out of these people. Grebe and staff, to their credit, said, "Yes, we can build it." And George also had another side--he wanted unquestionable loyalty of his people. You could not say anything adverse in meetings, therefore, when there was a struggle between in-house designers and his staff, and people assigned to him from Ford on his staff, it was a rough time for the Ford employees working for George to follow--the loyalties. When George became the Vice-President, he had weekly staff meetings, and there was no question who was boss. George told certain jokes, and we listened. He had parties on an annual basis--Christmas parties, which were good. I guess other vice-presidents had them. George also had a little black book that we all knew about, and with photographs of every employee. George wanted to be able to remember every employee's name, and wanted to be able to walk up to him and shake his hand. And so, if you were walking down the hall with George, he'd say, "What's his name, what's his name?" and he'd say hello to the person--understanding that he had to have the goodwill of the employees. But, by the same token, if you said something wrong-if you did something that he perceived to be wrong--a black X would come across your face in that book. I had one happen--it's a matter of record--and I got it written, and it's in an old safe I have at home, and the end result of this was that George called me in his office, and he was putting on his pants. He had his underpants on, and he was dressing, and he said, "John, you're not one of my guys. You did this, and you did this, and you did it for this." And I said, "George, that is not true. I did this to protect you and the design staff," and we sat down and talked it out, and I walked out of that office still one of his guys. But we came the closest to where I had said to George in his office, "George, if you believe that, I am gone. I am leaving. I've been too honorable, I can't do that kind of thing. But somebody on your staff was cheating, and somebody else was to be fired for it, and I honestly said who was doing the cheating. And if the person who was doing the cheating happened to be one of your favorites...." I tried not to get into it-and it went to headquarters at a pretty high level, and George was chastised for it, and he was reeling from this, and one of his own employees, John Najjar, had, technically, squealed.
Q: Blown the whistle. This kind of old-fashioned, getting by on charm and luck really went out of fashion very quickly, and, perhaps, led to his leaving.
A: Yeah. I think the thing that advented his leaving was--George was on an [ego trip]. George was interested in his self-promotion. George Walker-- Time magazine did a cover article on him and called him "The Cellini of Chrome." George loved all things white--white house, white car, white coat. George had a son who was in the business, and George was able to help things go his way a little bit. So this self-building up--he wanted publicity, wanted his name to be known. In fact, he was to give a speech out in California, and I mentioned to him, "I see you are going to give a speech in California at the Art Center," and George looked at me and said, "Oh, am I?" and he asked where it was, and then he said, "Well, why don't you go out and give it for me." Well, my speech had been reviewed, and it damn well better have "George Walker, the Vice-President" in it several times--but that type of thing led to his downfall. And he went on a tour of Europe , and, evidently, on the tour of Europe he hired a publicist over there to indicate he was going around. When he got back he was supposed to give a report on it; in fact, George called me in his office and said, "John, I have to do a report," and out of my appreciation for what this man had done for me in promoting my career, I went home, and I wrote a report on an imagined tour of Europe and presented it to him the following weekend. He used that, adding stuff of his to it. It wasn't that he hadn't been on the tour, because he came back from it, and the company knew that George Walker had been in Europe , and he had to give a report. So there were some questionable things, and he was moved out.
Q: And, really, that was the end of an era and brought in Gene Bordinat, who was a much more sophisticated, much more talented, much more highly-trained individual.
A: Yes, he was. In fact, George had made overtures to having Joe Oros follow him as Vice-President of Design and indicated to Joe that he was going to be the man. But somebody in the company felt that, over the years, Gene had proven his loyalty through thick and thin, and he was all those things you said and more, and that he could run the Design Center with a firm hand.
Q: Which brings me to a quick question. Joe Oros--we mentioned him several times--seems to have had quite an impact on Ford design history-in what way, would you say?
A: Well, Joe was a good designer, he had a feeling for themes, he and others picked up the round taillight theme from the X-100 and dropped it onto the Ford back end, and that became the look of the back end for many, many years. Joe was a very hard task-master--he knew design. With the power of George Walker behind him, he had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time with the right people working for him.
And he always treated his job with respect. He treated the people working for him, mostly with respect. Although he and I had one altercation about--he was tearing down my employees in front of them, that they are not good designers, they are not this--and I asked him to step out into the hall. I told Joe, "You don't do that in front of the people. If they are poor designers, its my fault. I have to bring it out of them, and we should not be talking like that in front of them." But that was the only time.
Q: Who were your personal heroes of the many people in design you worked for?
A: Of course, Bob Maguire--he was the one....
Q: He retired just a couple of years before you did, did he not?
A: I think he left in--he was 10 years older than I was. I think he left in 1968. Yes, because Bob was in the military service, I believe-achieved a Brevet-Major title, and he worked for a fellow by the name of Colonel Knowles, and Bob would sit back and talk about, "Colonel Knowles would do it this way. Colonel Knowles would not like this." Bob was very militaristic in his organization, and he impressed me greatly in that--that here was a pattern to be followed. The man that would challenge you to do things, and when you did it, he would applaud it and see that you got rewarded for it. Because I had designed the interior of his office with special gimmicks. I always was prideful, like a little 'boy bringing things home to show mother from school--bring it up to Bob 'to show him new designs and hot, new ideas. He was always receptive; challenging you, ridiculing you, cajoling you--all the things I could think of. Bordinat was an inspiration, because Bordinat was able to deliver. He could talk quite well, he knew interchangeability, he was polished, he had good looks, he had all those qualifications. I looked up to Eddie Martin in the early days because Eddie was the fellow that taught me how to render--how to make a presentation, the organization of putting down facts logically. I'd say that Eddie Martin, Bob McGuire, Gene Bordinat were the three individuals that I liked to follow. Outside of the organization, of course, Will Scott was one that I admired--as a product planner--as a human being. Wayne Doran was one. Here was a chance to assimilate different information. Wayne was always free with answering questions and very generous with his time, and when I said that there should be a lake at the twin towers, he said, "Well, you've got people planning--why don't you take a shot at it." And I did a design of a site plan for that section of the Parklane Towers--curved the roads, and put a lake in it, and Wayne Doran, to his credit, added another $75,000 to the budget to achieve that look because John Najjar, said it would look better, and, to me, that was just wonderful to have the man listen to what I considered logic.
Q: I think that with the time we have left, I'd like to leave plenty of time for any final thoughts you may have on the whole field of automotive design or industrial design, especially as it was practiced at Ford and other automobile companies. Is that a fair question?
A: It is a fair question--probably should have been the core, basic theme of our recording of all these tapes rather than a fiscal history-which I felt that I've fallen into--it should have been more of Design Center, design objectives, and--I tried to lay down several pages of these things, but things affecting design, when it began?--the time I learned it?...and the kind I was going to continue?...management influence of design, the design people--people in design influence design--the facilities that they inhabited influence design--the industrial technology that existed influence design. And then, of course, the physical and political environment influence design, and against that background you can start to say how did it grow? It can be checked on record, but the thing that influenced our design the most was when George Walker was made Vice-President. There was a chance for it [the Design Center ] to be recognized in its own element. And concurrent to that period of time are the mechanical [support] equipment, and doing the clay models was becoming more sophisticated. Safety programs were initiated. Meetings between engineering and the various supporting staffs of the company were becoming more formalized. There was some [design] work going on in Australia and in Europe . The Design Center of Ford Motor Company was beginning to influence [design] done in Europe . From time to time we had participated in a few designs, but it became a little bit more formal, especially when Mr. Walker and Sir Patrick Hennessy had struck up a friendship. And I had the opportunity to meet Sir Patrick many, many times and [incidentally] loved his [war] stories, and he requested that Elwood and I go [to] England and work on a couple of the projects to help them out over there. And, so, Design Center influence was again growing. And I say "again growing" because at the time--earlier Edsel Ford was that design influence--Henry Ford II was that design influence. E.T. Gregorie never had that direct influence. In the 1960's with Bordinat now in, our relationship with European design became a little bit more formalized--English and German studios were established, and designers were now starting to be rotated and transferred to Europe , back and forth, whereas nationals were moved to the United States to gain experience here. We started studios in Italy . The Australian studio was growing in strength, and we were doing a little bit more South American spinoff designs. In the 'Seventies, the automatic recording devices (information from clay models) were starting to pick up [improve] more and more. Gene Bordinat was, evidently, a pioneer in having the Design Center not only design the shapes but get in under the skin and become a part of true designing, and then being able to shorten the development time from the clay model to the finished product. And he was always experimenting with new ways to cut the time down. Because if you cut the time down, it gave you a long lead time to design. In other words, you were able to spend more time designing before you had to stop designing in order to get a production [model] which allowed you to get the latest information on what General Motors was doing, what Chrysler was doing, and what you wanted to do yourself. And in the 'Seventies this continued. The Industrial Design Department was started, which I had control of--and important now--our facilities, our equipment--we started computer-controlled information--taking tapes off of the models and getting that information--so the lead time was shorter. The technology--improvements in being able to mould the "soft front end" led by G.M.--trying to merge multiple pieces into one, coming up with thinner and lighter sections. The Design Center was having a better control of design execution. It would be able to following its design further in-let me say it this way--the color and trim group were able to control color chips and swatches of material--master samples for production. It became recognized, you did not deviate from the master section sample without going to the Design Center . Designers were requested by engineers to be down on the preproduction lines as the sample parts came in, and the pre-pilot programs--if anything was wrong with the color of the chrome from one piece to another, it immediately got back to the Design Center , and the control began again from there. So, here again, designers were asked to step up and become part of the production. And this was a great change, and I look at it as Bordinat's major contribution as well as design. During the 'Eighties, Bordinat has now gone, in effect.
Q: He retired about a year after you did?
A: That's right. And, I think, he was invited--as he had done to me. So now they had decided to have North American and automotive operations under Jack Telnack, who had grown under the Ford training system, and he had served his time in England and Australia--came up the classic route and did a good job. In the meantime, Gail Halderman had come up--had not had the opportunity to be taken around the different parts of the corporate responsibility, nevertheless, had done a good job. Don Kopka was appointed Vice-President. He was appointed to take care of the international and advanced responsibilities. I don't know what's going to happen when it comes time for Don Kopka to retire* or leave--whether it will again be one V.P.--I hope it is. There should be one person running the design activity.
Q: This development seems to me to be a new wrinkle in design administration at Ford--Jack Telnack as the Chief Stylist reporting to Poling-and Don Kopka, the Vice-President....
A: Reporting to William Clay Ford.
Q: Has this worked well in the last four years?
* Editor's Note: D. Kopka retired in mid-1987. Telnack became vice president of all design operations.
A: I really don't know. I've been away from it. When you walk out of your place of employment, the door is usually shut. But it's really shut when you walk out of design. Nobody needs another designer coming back, and I made it a personal point not to go back. I've been invited back a couple of times--to stop over for lunch--but not stop over for lunch on a specific day. I've been asked by the "mature advisory group"--been appointed to that, which is a clinic, about 30 people that have been selected who are willing to give time, give opinions....
Q: Is this an ongoing group?
A: An ongoing group, and it was established in 1981. It was under the aegis of a female market analyst, Dr. , and I can't think of the name now, but--I had a chance to go back at that time, and I had a reluctance to do that. In fact, when the review was held at the Design Center , I said, "Where is it going to be held?" And, "It's going to be held in the hallway," I said, "I am not going to it," and they, said, "Why?" And I said, "Because anybody that goes by wants to shake my hand and say, "Hello," and I cannot get honest opinions and thinking," so they moved it to the showrooms, and I have been attending those. They'll ask such questions as, "Can you press this button?" or "Does this cloth grab too much on the clothes?" and "What do you think of this shape?" In fact, the new design series coming out, the next wave of vehicles, has a station wagon in it, and the station wagon has a God-awful looking profile on the back end that I have never seen, and I so stated it and wrote it hoping that it would work through the system, and maybe I don't understand the new system, but when they do designs like that, it is awkward and ugly. What has happened now, as I understand--tidbits of information--computer technology has grown, and although body engineering had the money and wherewithal to start doing some drawings on panels and fenders, and G.M. was doing it under design staff, when I left we hadn't gotten to that sophistication, although computers were taking information up. Now I understand [use of] computers have advanced at the Design Center , and they are thinking of doing drawings on a full-size scale, and the challenge, it must be fearsome. I just wish I was on the threshold of my career, because with the technology advancements and throwing the challenge directly to the companies of producing vehicles that will meet the needs is going to bode nothing but good for the person in design, I think. That's basically it, as I see it.
Q: Your famous chalk talks and paper drawings have been supplanted largely by computers now?
A: Yes. Although I would say it will never stop where the designer draws a sketch on the board--the freedom of the pencil. In fact, I bought myself a computer to see how flexible I could design, and I have been doing computer programs--I find it is very tortuous to get a design on the screen. I find I can still pick up a pencil and do a series of drawings a lot faster. So, I think, that we will always have people that are creative who will be able to draw with a pencil, put a large piece of paper on the blackboard and render full size and give management a quick [design] feeling. I think that further down the line, sophisticated computer techniques will allow them to shorten the lead time, allowing them to make a decision at a later date.
Q: So you are largely optimistic about the future of automotive design?
A: Absolutely. I guess some people felt negative about it--not like it used to be--and management gets their hands too much in it. But that sounds like history. That sounds like petty picking. And I understand, too, now that they have a sort of abstract fear of unions coming after the people that did clay modeling and wood shop, and Chrysler went that route, and, to that end, Jack Telnack has a committee that meets on a monthly basis with the people that represent the clay modelers and represent the shop, and some of the people down there feel that this is too damned much hand-holding. But I see good visions--the company's viewpoint toward design and its role inside the company. And people like Petersen who have grown up in it--he was, basically, a good combination of car man and product man, and I see good people at Ford without them having to go outside for consultant talent, and that they have also opened up some training for clay modeling within the company to allow company employees to go to a short school to learn clay modeling,. and so to hire that talent from within, which is good.
Q: So what would your final thought be on your career at Ford in styling? Obviously, it has been an exciting time for you.
A: My mother, a long time ago, told me, before I lost my hair, that I had two points in the back of my head, two corners, and that squareheadedness meant good luck, and it was good luck the day the original guy came out to the graduating class at Eastern High School and offered an interview. And it was my luck to take him up on the interview and through a series of good people at Ford putting out a helping hand all through my career. The 43 years I spent with the company before I retired were just glorious. Sure, they had their ups and downs, but everybody should be as lucky. But the key thing was the challenge to the imagination. You imagine any other person having the chance to work with all the personages--the Henry Ford family--all the dynamic people that went through the company and all the variety of projects that I worked on. I'd just love to continue it.
Q: Well, John, this has been very helpful--our fourth and final interview with John Najjar, who has been a force in styling history throughout his career at Ford, and we thank you for coming.
A: Thank you.