Traces the birth of the 1949 Ford from the drawing board to the roads of the world, showing different stages of automobile design and manufacturing. This is the first 12:30 minutes of a 27 minute video. Featured are studio renderings on black canson and full size clay models. A flashback into the days before the government ran the automobile industry.

3 Comments
  1. It is good to see the Ford people and buildings of the ’40s and ’50s again! However, as many now know, the 1949 concept did not originate in Ford’s styling studios! It came from Studebaker designers. I heard the story first while designing at Chrysler Corp., and checked it out with Dick Caleal, a fellow designer. Caleal was the person responsible for the design of the 1949 Ford!

    Bob Gregorie, who headed Ford’s styling department from 1936, presented a 1949 design that was not accepted. Consultant George Walker had presented a clay model to Ernest Breech and Henry Ford II that was accepted. Walker was hailed as the designer of the 1949 Ford, and in 1955, was given the job of vice-president in charge of design.

    Dick Caleal was a “studio engineer,” or layout draftsman, in the Loewy studios that designed the Studebakers. Caleal wanted to be a “stylist,” and applied to George Walker. Walker ws not impressed with Dick’s sketches, and told him to bring a clay model of his designs. Some Loewy designers, friends of Caleal, offered to help him make a clay model. The model, 1/4 scale, I think, was sculpted on the kitchen table in Caleal’s house in South Bend. The grille with central spinner was a motif that Virgil Exner, manager of the Loewy studio, had been working on, and a version of it appeared on the 1950 Studebaker (this I was told by Virgil Exner Jr.). Caleal took the clay model to Detroit, and showed it to Walker. I heard that Walker then tried to sell the design to Nash, but was turned down. He went to Ford, and Henry II loved it. At Ford, Walker’s two designers, Joe Oros and Elwood Engle, worked on translating the design into full scale, making some necessary adjustments. mThis became the 1949 Ford.

    In 1952 when I was working in the old Ford Trimotor factory, the EEE building, I went into the store rooms and saw the 1/4 scale model. It looked very much like the production 1949 Fords.

    For his role in the process, Walker (who had connections with most car company executives) got a job for Caleal as manager of truck design in Chrysler’s styling department. Later, Walker would help Engle get the vice-president of design job at Chrysler, after a change in top management caused Ex to be put out to pasture.

    John Samsen

  2. I’m growing more and more fond of this site. Loved the movie and the above details from John. There’s a whole new generation of gear heads out here who don’t know their history. That’s a shame.

  3. Bob Marcks

    Having worked in Raymond Loewy’s design studio in South Bend, beginning in 1993, I heard the story of Dick Caleal’s model first hand. The design of it was actually done by Bob Bourke and Bob Koto, in Caleal’s kitchen as stated.

    There is a book titled, Bob Bourke designs for Studebaker, by John Bridges. Chapter 3 is: THE 1949 FORD STORY. It is a five page chapter based on an interview with Bob Bourke by John Bridges. It describes, in detail, everyone’s contribution and the sequence of events from beginning to end, probably more accurately than you will find in any other source.

    Dick Caleal was well liked, but had to be let go in a general layoff. It reflects very well on the Loewy organization, that they would be personally concerned with him and his family’s future welfare, and then contributed their time and talent to help him in his career. Not to mention that it is one of the industries most interesting stories concerning the origins of an “iconic” (an overused cliche that does seem appropriate in this instance) design.

    Bob Marcks

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