By John Mellberg


Rendering by Elia Rusinoff


Our designer friend and colleague, Elia ‘Russ’ Russinoff, has provided a portfolio of his work to feature on Dean’s Garage, shown on behalf of the Automotive Designers Guild and The League of Retired Automotive Designers, of which Russ is a fellow member.

Included among the 40+ sketches/photos is an image of a gold-colored 3/8ths scale model, called Illusion with the greenhouse sculpturally integrated into the form of the vehicle body, created in celebration of GM’s having worked with Libby-Owens-Ford (LOF) on vehicle glass development for 50 years. The cartoon in the portfolio, by Stan Parker, depicts several designers, modelers, and tech stylists with Russ seated in the vehicle. The illustration showing a dramatic 3/4 rear perspective of a pointy advanced car design demonstrates Russ’s out-of-the-box thinking. The Mead-like rendering of a couple of hovering, wheelless vehicles, was used along with other futuristic renderings by other designers for a presentation by Bill Mitchell on automotive design. Other images shown are from Russ’s work in Advanced Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile, and Chevrolet Studios, the Aero Studio, and Advanced Vehicle Concepts Studio.

It’s been my good fortune to have known Russ for over 40 years, and I enjoyed working with him during my early days at GM Styling, in the Advanced Pontiac Studio, where he was a creative inspiration to all of us who worked with him. We’ve remained good friends for all these years, and I can truthfully say that while the years have passed, his enthusiasm, love, and passion for good car design is as sharp as it was back in the late 1960s when we worked together. His concept contributions as one of the founding members of the League of Retired Automotive Designers, at the various venues the League has exhibited its members designs at in recent years are exciting and forward thinking. Russ was also 1st Place Sr. National Winner in the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild Model Car Competition in 1949, and has been active in Guild Events over the years since, including the 2004 Guild Reunion held at GM Design, and the Eyes On Design concours event that year.

Elia (Russ) Russinoff
1955-1995 Asst. Chief Designer, GM Design
1960s Contributed to styling of several production Pontiacs and advanced aero projects
1955 Contributed to styling of Cadillac Town & Country show car
1954 Pratt Institute Graduate
1949 Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild 1st, Nat’l Sr. Award

  1. Gary,
    You did a great job putting Russ’s presentation together. It looks great! One can only hope that fellow members of the Automotive Designers Guild and The League of Retired Automotive Designers and other automotive designers will be inspired by this Russinoff presentation, and moved to submit examples of their own creative talents to share/show for all to see and appreciate (w/submissions sent directly to you for posting).

    Thanks for this homage to a fine person and fellow automotive designer.

    John M. Mellberg
    Automotive Designers Guild / League of Retired Automotive Designers

  2. Russ was in the first studio I was assigned to when I started at GM Design.His work was always such an inspiration to the young guys like myself.His work continues to look good after all this time.I was so fortunate to have been able to work with that kind of talent !! Thanks ,Gary for putting this together.

  3. Rogerio Machado

    This portfolio is amazing. I`m here on my desk, thinking about so huge knowledge and culture Russinof keep from all those years. Congratulations.

  4. David R.North

    Russ was one of the best!

  5. Walter Gomez

    Great portfolio!

  6. Orval Selders

    It is my sincere pleasure to have had the opportunity to work with ‘Russ’. His supreme talent was indeed enhanced by his jovial personality. I never once saw Russ in anger. Do you know that Russ once worked briefly for the reknowned Vince Gardner? (for you younger designers, Google ‘Vincent Gardner’ for the ‘Viga’ car he designed). I knew Vince from my days as a designer for Raymond Loewy Design Associates in South Bend.

  7. Norm James

    I was very fortunate, going to Pratt—hoping to become an automobile designer, to find Russ as the upper classman leading the extra curriculum automobile design class. He became teacher, mentor and idol to us wannabes in our quest; showing the same skills and techniques you see here in the slideshow on how it is done. He was and still is a true gentleman.

  8. Christopher Rhoades

    I worked with Russ in 1985 as an Intern in the Advanced Aero Studio.He was such a great mentor and incredible inspiration for me. Seeing his unique style and innovative designs again on this page brings back great memories. Thanks Russ!

    Christopher Rhoades
    Chief Designer
    Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design of North America

  9. Roy Lonberger

    Two points that I want to emphasize to students about Russ’s fine work:

    1. Creativity: When asked, Russ could produce 100 different concepts, while the less talented could get only 100 variations of the same concept.

    2. Sketches: Unlike most designers who use hard and digital media to define surfaces in laborious and dull shading, Russ developed an exciting and quick technique of using reflections to define form. Study images 19 & 28.

    One can learn a lot by studying his work. Many thanks.

  10. Paul Russinoff

    John, on behalf of both myself and my Dad, I want to extend a very sincere thank you for the time you took in putting this together. It was great to see some of Dad’s sketches up on this great website and to read the wonderful comments from his colleagues at GM! (I understand he’s send you some more). Thanks again, Paul Russinoff

  11. Hi Paul,
    Nice to hear from you, and that you enjoyed seeing some ‘highlights’ from your Dad’s automotive designer career (Part 1, w/Part 2 to follow soon). As Dave North has already replied, Russ was one of the best, and was in very good company there during what arguably were GM Designs best years. We’re hopeful that some of the Automotive Designers Guild and the League of Retired Automotive Designers membership will be inspired by this showing and also come forth to share images of their creative design talents too. There’s a young audience out there that needs to see and learn from design concept work such as your Dad’s and his fellow colleagues.
    Thanks for checking out Dean’s Garage too!
    Sincerely, -John
    John M. Mellberg
    Automotive Designers Guild / League of Retired Automotive Designers

  12. David McIntosh

    Russ was one of the uninhibited guys. He wasn’t constrained by anything that gets in the way of creativity. Fun to talk with and inspiring to work with. I had the pleasure to work with Russ in Advanced One studio in the ’70’s, a very creative time and atmoshphere, where I really learned how to be a designer.

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