AUTOMOTIVE DESIGN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
The Reminiscences of John Najjar
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.