“You’re leaving the Yankees for a long shot. Don’t expect to come back.” Text by Anthony Rehling. Photographs courtesy of the author. Published in The Packard Cormorant magazine, summer 2000 issue. Many thanks to Bill Wagner.  
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Mr. Rehling (above left) is retired in San Jose, California, still drawing cars, after a long career in and industrial design.

  “Mr. Tony, I found you in the trash pile.” This was our congenial janitor, Alvis, telling me he had some pictures of my crew and me. It was near the time of the Packard closedown in 1956. The packet of pictures included some late clay models of our hoped-for automobiles. At the time, I was the lead modeler in the Packard studio. There was also a separate studio for the Clipper line. In 1953, when the new styling section of the Packard Motor Company was organized, Bill Schmidt was Head of Styling. He had recruited the talented Dick Teague from the studio of another company, where I also was employed. Dick in turn invited Fred (Fritz) Wagner, a master modeler, to join Packard and to head the clay modeling department. I asked Fritz if there would be an opening for me. Dick called me personally and said he’d be happy to have me on his team, but I’d have to understand he couldn’t guarantee anything. When I told my supervisor where I was going, he said, “You’re leaving the Yankees for a long shot. Don’t expect to come back.” At age 30, the chance to advance my career while being part of the famous Packard Motor Car Company meant a lot to me. I was surprised at the great teamwork I found there. We all had a purpose and a stake in Packard’s success. Our high morale owed much to the people who made up Packard Styling.     Designing cars is fascinating, but also very stressful, and we all welcomed the occasional bit of comic relief. Much of this was supplied by Fritz Wagner, who had a gift for humor. One morning, Fritz found a mouse trapped in a wastepaper basket, where it had clambered in pursuit of a Hershey candy wrapper. Being a humanitarian, Fritz amused everyone by fashioning a parachute from his bandanna handkerchief and securing it to the mouse, who was quickly christened “Mickey.” Then Fritz stepped to the fire escape and, as we all watched, opened the bandanna and let Mickey drop to the parking lot below. A gentle breeze helped carry the reluctant rodent to a soft landing. The crowd cheered as the little fellow scurried under the nearest car. Fritz made a low bow and said, “I lost a bandanna, but I saved a life.” Fritz and a draftsman had an ongoing competition as to which would have the most children. When I joined the department they were tied at six. The clay modelers rooted for Fritz, the artists for the draftsman. Three years went by. One day, the draftsman came into .the studio smiling and carrying a large box of cigars. With everyone watching, he offered Fritz a cigar, holding up seven fingers in a kind of victory gesture. “Congratulations,” said Fritz. He shook the man’s hand, then opened his desk drawer and pulled out two boxes of cigars. One was marked “Last Year” and the other “This Year.”     I developed great admiration for Dick Teague, whose ability as a designer was matched by his personal character. Honest and modest, Dick treated everyone alike. His rapport with his staff kept them loyal, while the respect with which he was held by management ensured their support. Dick was always composed and even tempered. Only once did I see him get angry. Typically, this involved our house comedian, Fritz Wagner. One lunch hour Dick was assisting a designer on a complicated new steering wheel while Fritz and another modeler amused themselves kicking an empty battery box. In spite of repeated irritated looks from Dick, the kicking continued. Dick finally leaped from his chair and gave the box a powerful kick that should have sent it out the window. It didn’t get very far: Fritz had put the battery back in the box! Dick’s foot was better in a few days and things got back to normal. Another incident involved my accidental discovery of Packard’s “secret” styling studio. I’d wanted a small space to do my paperwork and to keep odd parts used on clay models, like windshield wipers, mirrors, license plates and other accessories. I heard there was some office furniture on the third floor, and recruited another clay modeler to help me appropriate some of it. We took the freight elevator and pushed the third floor button. To our surprise the elevator stopped at the second floor, where someone wearing a modeler’s smock started wheeling in a table holding a quarterscale car model. Seeing us, he moved back quickly, but before the door closed I was able to observe a clay oven and some car renderings pinned to a wall.     Continuing our original quest we arrived at the third floor, where we found a nice desk, along with two large steel shelves. Taking these back to my first floor workspace, I made a little cubicle, backing the shelving with pegboard. My work was no sooner completed than Bill Schmidt strolled by. “Well, Tony,” he said, “they finally got you an office.” My next visitors were Styling Vice President Edward Macauley and Dick Teague. Mr. Macauley prodded Dick to speak. They had come to discuss our “discovery” of the “secret studio” on the second floor. Dick had told Mr. Macauley I could be trusted not to reveal this place of unofficial work to the union, which had restrictions about such things—but what about the other clay modeler? I assured them that the other fellow had already agreed with me that we “hadn’t seen a thing.” I next expected them to ask where my new “office” had come from, so without explaining the details I said it had the approval of Bill Schmidt (albeit after the fact). They went away satisfied. Dick Teague made a career designing modern cars, but he also loved antiques, and had restored a number of them, including a curved dash Oldsmobile and a Packard phaeton. He was likewise a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers. I am always proud to tell people at classic car events that I knew and worked for Dick Teague. Dick’s talents live on in his two sons, Richard and Jeffrey, who presently teach auto design at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco. Each has had extensive auto design responsibilities in German, Japan and the U.S. While we were getting organized, the Predictor was fabricated in Italy. It was a great success at auto shows around the country. Making practical mass production 1957 models based on the Predictor then became our goal.     After many artist sketches and full-size drafting drawings, decisions are made as to a car’s wheelbase and height. Then, a full size clay model is started. Constant modifications of the original concept take place to improve appearance. Engineers use the model to determine the kind of tooling needed. A cost analysis is also made for each part, and for the total car. Practical matters are considered, such as contour of glass and metal that can be achieved in production. Even assembly problems can be determined from a full-size clay model. We worked and reworked our clay models to that end, including a model for the mid-priced Clipper. A sports car was also planned. We got as far as full-size clay models for each. But when Packard merged with Studebaker our objectives changed. Our styling had to be compatible with that of the Studebaker Division. It was hard to accept our advanced Packard work being dropped to accommodate Studebaker bodies for our 1957–58 models. With our two styling sections 200 miles apart, there were logistical problems. Once it became important to send a model from Detroit to the Studebaker Chippewa Plant in South Bend, Indiana. It was cold at the time and Bill Schmidt and others worried that if the clay got cold, it would shrink off of the wooden armature. So a large, heated horse van was rented for the journey. The clay did not fall off the wood armature because of the weather; it fell in 50-pound chunks because of road vibration on the 200-mile ride. It was a horrendous job to put “Humpty Packard” together again. Half our clay modelers were flown in a company plane for two week stints to South Bend, Indiana. Then, those who stayed in Detroit were rotated to Studebaker. This lasted for quite a while. It dawned on me that the end was near when I saw our studio radiators being removed to be sold for scrap. The janitor’s remark, “I found you on the trash pile” was not encouraging. Some predicted that all would be well and we would just have to move to South Bend, to work on the combined Packard and Studebaker products. Instead management gave orders that all Packard styling material should be destroyed. It was then that Dick Teague and Ed Cunningham took many records and drawings to the Detroit Public Library. A quarter-scale model of the Predictor went to an executive’s home for safekeeping.     Packard styling modelers were required to join the United Auto Workers. As a coincidence, our shop steward’s name was Bill Schmidt, same as our Head of Styling. This caused confusion as both were the Good Bill Schmidt or the Bad Bill Schmidt, depending on which side was talking. The union opposed management’s decision to leave Detroit, and management felt the UAW didn’t realize how bad the situation was. This was partly the fault of their optimistic releases to the press. Finally the day came when the union was to tell us where we stood. After the union meeting, I asked one of our modelers (an artist recently arrived from Europe) if he understood what went on. “I only understand one word,” he said, “but it was enough.” “What was the word?” I asked “Unfortunately.” In January 1957, we were all terminated. Bill Schmidt gave all of us who had stayed to the end complimentary recommendations. I went back to toolmaking, my former occupation, for a year. Then I got into another design center and stayed twenty years until early retirement. I still sculpt as a hobby, and reminisce about my Packard experience. At the time of Packard’s demise, half of the Packards built were still on the road. Over forty years later, there are so many Packard enthusiasts that you can still “Ask the Man Who Owns One!”  
  11-2cmm   Automotive ad agencies refer to the position a model occupies in car photos as either the “New York Side” or the “Detroit Side.” The “New York Side” means that the model stands between the car and the camera; the “Detroit Side” means that the car is more important than the model. The photo below is an egregious example of the “New York Side” showing a group who should have known better: Packard’s stylists. We not only stood in front of the 1957 fiberglass mockup (inspired by the Predictor)—we totally obscured it! Left to right: Dave Barr, Bill Braathen, Don Beyreis, Don Bailey, George Krispinsky, Bill Schmidt, Duane Bohnstedt, Fred Wagner, Stan Thorwalden, Ed Cunningham, and Riley Quarles. Dick Teague was on vacation that day, and the Studebaker group—Duncan McRae, Randy Faurot, Bob Temple, and Ed Hermann were in South Bend. Page opposite: a graphic way of showing our organization. There were actually many more individuals in the various departments. Trim and Color later broke into “development” (Neill Brown, Jr.) and “mastering and releasing” (Bob McNerney).  
  “Ask the Man Who Worked There.” It was the best of times and the worst of times. In the beginning things looked rosy; in the end Styling was left almost alone in a cavernous plant. In between came progress and accomplishment. Text by Ed Cunningham. Photographs Courtesy of the Author.
13 Comments
  1. Christopher C. Dowdey

    WOW…what a great story and wonderful connection with the Packard heritage. Amazing stories of the modelers..and the way things actually got done and really enjoyed the human stories of what made working with all these wonderful “car” people such an absolute treasure.
    When I was a young man of 21 just starting out as a Designer at Ford Design Center. I had the privilege of working next to an older Designer named John Reinhart……what an interesting and wonderful man. He was very talented and most importantly he treated everybody respectfully and had a real genuine warmth in allowing you to be accepted….when everything was so scary just starting out. He was an older ( age 60when I met him ) ex Packard Designer..and he shared many stories of the studios from those days. John was most famous probably for working with William Clay Ford and developing the 1956 Mark….which was his legacy.
    I also had the great privilege of working with Fritz Wagoner, as a lead clay modeler at Ford Design..and he was an absolute scream. He was in your face, LOUD… he was alive with humor…and just an absolute delightful person. You know he cared when he pulled a joke on you to lighten things up…and when you were in a panic mode for a show and the pressure was really on….he could bring everybody together with his humor..and you had to laugh and enjoy the ribald jokes..even as he picked on a designer…sometimes ME…to make fun of…it was really pretty great laughs….and I enjoyed having him in the studio.
    Totally awesome talent as were all the modelers….and he was also famous for working on the Y-Job with Harley Earl over at GM a when he built models over their earlier in his career. He always told me about the Grille he made..and other exciting stories….

    Thanks for sharing Mr. Cunningham…wonderful stories of a bygone era.
    of these wonderful and talented people

    Chris Dowdey

  2. Scott C. Anderson

    Very interesting and informative article about the Packard Design legacy. I thoroughly enjoyed the read. A good friend of mine, recently deceased was one Fred L. Hudson Jr. He worked for Dick Teague at Packard Styling for a short stint I believe in the mid fifties, I would guess 1954-55ish. I have several photos of some of his renderings he did while there at Packard. He and Mr Teague had quite the rapport I was told. Fred always spoke fondly of his Packard days, but by 1956-ish he said he saw the writing on the wall and jumped ship to Chrysler Corp in Highland Park and eventually headed up the Imperial Studio/Exteriors. Fred was responsible for those monstrous Imperials and LeBarons up until the freshening came in 1962, I believe. One claim to fame Fred was very proud of was those free standing headlights on the 59-62 Imperials. It was a gleam in the eye of Exner that Fred brought to life. Fred however tired of the rigors of car design and migrated south to Pompano Beach, Florida around 1958 and took a job as right hand man to A.W. MacKerer at the all new design studios at Chris Craft. Fred was responsible for many innovative designs during his tenure there and among those was work on the all new 38 ft. Commander, CC’s first foray into the world of large fiberglas yachts. CC was rather late in joining this craze, behind the pioneers Hatteras and Bertram and Pearson. But the 38 Chris Craft Commander was and is still today a time honored classic in the world of boating.

    Fred began to get itchy again for the lure of automobiles and there was financial issues between him and his boss at CC, so a quick call around Jan ’64 to his old pal in Detroit, Dick Teague, now at American Motors. Dick told him he had a spot saved and a chair warmed for him already and would let him know when his new company car was delivered. Fred packed his family up again and headed north in a few weeks. He remained at AMC for many years, and was directly responsible for the designs of the 1968 Javelins and AMX, and the full size Rebel line as well. I always kidded Fred about the 1975 Pacer and he always assured me that he had NOTHING at all to do with that little jellybean car!!! Haha!!!

    He always remained proud of his accomplishments while there. I think it was around 1974-75 when Fred decided to go out on his own and opened the The Fred L. Hudson Industrial Design Co. based in Miami. He specialized in large yacht design, and did work for some of the exotic yacht manufacturers like Uniesse in Italy, right up until the day he passed in May of 2010.

    I was fortunate to call Fred my friend, quite a guy to talk to. I only wish i had met him long before I actually first made his acquaintance, in the spring of 2004. But his wit and humor and anecdotes and stories of all the awesome jobs in automotive styling he had were truly something i will treasure forever.

    As a footnote, I have toured the remains of the old Packard facility down on E. Grand Blvd. many times, and was amazed to see the degree of deterioration just in the last few years since the last tenants moved out of the complex. Can anyone tell me where exactly the Design Studios were there in the complex? I have chronicled a couple tours inside the complex on film many years ago, and even toured the remnants of President Jim Nance’s office as well. I would be curious to learn where the design dept was located, if anyone knows. :^)

    Scott Anderson
    Grosse Ile, Michigan

  3. Clark Lincoln

    In my early years at GM Styling, I worked (under) Duane (Sparky) Bohnstedt. I can’t remember where the nick name came from, but he was a classic example of the “old generation” of designers – always impeccably dressed (although very conservative in his taste..) and alway suspect of any “new” ideas or rendering techniques. He always bragged about Packard and I respected him as one of my favorite cars when I was a high schooler was the 1956(?) Clipper tri color that a friend of my father had.

    Great write up Anthony, you honor the memory of all those mentioned.

    Clark Lincoln
    GM Design 1969-2001

  4. I remember someone in my dad’s church in Colorado Springs had one of the last BIG HIPPED (full sized) Packard sedans. Then, when I went to Art Center 1956-1959 one of the instructors had one of the last of the big Packards. Dick (can’t remember his last name) worked on the Predictor, the showcar that was sort of the last hurrah for Packard Styling. Memories!

  5. I’ll bet that I pre-date anyone alive today from Packard Styling … went to work there in 1940, finishing touches on the Clipper. Under Gubitz, with Howard Yaeger, Phil Wright, and John Reinhart & two clay modelers, Bud Hall and Bill Reithard as entire department. Phil, John, and I were the only pencil & paintbrush designers. Bill and I told Ed McCauley that Hall was talking about joining the UAW, and that if he did join we were leaving. Hall got fired that day. Location of Styling … I can only locate it by decribing. East side of building, an upper (top?) floor overlooking employee parking lot. We used to fire soft clay balls about half inch dia. from compressed air hose used to blow clay crumbs off the models. Made a startling bang on a car roof near anyone walking nearby. John was lifelong friend and talent scout for me. He sent me two ex-Ford designers/Art Center grads that were most of my staff for the next 20 years … Dale Gustafon and Roger Metcalf.

  6. I grew up near the Packard plant. We lived on Canton just south of Harper. Our home was across the alley from the executive garage located on Concord. When the workers left we would play softball in the cinder lot. The softball would not last very long bouncing on the cinders and soon had to be taped up. As we got older we could hit the ball farther and farther until it was able to reach the windows of the second floor offices. Sometimes it made it through the windows and sent us running.
    Also at that time I had a paper stand selling the Detroit Times and News at the exit on Concord for the factory workers.The papers were five cents. When the workers all left I took the remaining papers to the office lobby and placed them on the guards desk. After dinner I would pick up the money and remaining papers Then we would play ball.
    The security people in the garage knew us kids and on one occasion when Packard had an association with Mercedes there was a gull wing coupe in that garage. You can imagine how impressive that car was to a 15 year old. One of the guards let us sit in that car! It was silver with a blue leather seats with plaid fabric inserts.
    We always looked forward to the new models coming out. We could go down Concord and look in the open windows to see the cars coming down the assembly line.
    The executive garage also had many surprises. We would see Macaulley driving out in one of the custom Packards. One was the bronze ’48? coupe with the clear bubble top and the giant compass on the center console, the silver Panther show car and a black 4 door sedan that had the rear doors welded shut and the rear compartment enclosed to make an extremely long rear deck.
    During those times I had no idea that I would end up as a designer at Chrysler. I started in the Dodge Studio and George Krispinsky was one of the senior designers, small world. As time went on I had interface with Braathen, Bailey, Barr and Beyeris. Later I worked with Ed Cunninghan when he was a supplier.

    My career at Chrysler began in August of ’62 and lasted until June of 2001.

  7. Jim Earl

    I started my automotive design career in the GM Student Summer program
    under studio head Bill Porter who I considered a real intellect in the deign world. After graduating from Wayne University I worked at Ford Styling for a couple of years, then went to work for Sundberg & Ferar and William Schmidt Assocs. I worked at Schmidt Assocs. until 1972 when my wife and I moved to New England.
    Bill Schmidt gave me a chance to develop my leadership and communication skills and made my experience there a very satisfying one. Bill was a an enthusiastic leader and a real gentleman who knew how to get the best out of his staff. I look back in great appreciation for my time working with him.

  8. Amber Rehling

    What a pleasure to see this photo and article by my grandfather on your page! I would like to add that Anthony Rehling, or Tony, as we knew him, passed away in September of 2003. He was a dedicated father and grandfather and had a big heart. I love seeing him pictured here as a young man, and appreciate the comments on his article.
    Thank you for posting this!

  9. Can anyone tell me if there is still anyone living from the Packard design crew. I would be interested in contacting at Burns Enterprise LLC

  10. I worked in the photo department of Packard during 1943-44 when the engines for the P-41 aircraft and the marine engines for PT boats were being built. I recall that one of my friends who worked at Packard was among the few able to get a new Packard car after the war.

  11. Clive Ernest Buckler

    I went to Bob Temple’s estate sale in Moses Lake, WA in the early 1990s, I believe it was. Still own his Walker-Turner bandsaw. I had seen an ad for a project car in a local paper, recognized his signature on the rendering. I worked as a soda jerk at a small pharmacy in South Bend from 1955 to 1958, where Bob would stop in after work to buy car magazines. We became friends, and I’d visit his home shop where he was building a shortened 1953 Loewy coupe, using ’55 Speedster proto parts from Studebaker Salvage on Sample St. When complete, he took me with him to local SCCA events, where this 100″ wheelbase car surprised a lot of Corvettes and Austin-Healeys. After Studebaker folded he moved to his family home in Boulder, CO where designed molds for large consumer goods. He sold the coupe to me after I’d done my 4 yrs in the Air Force and was attending college in Portland, OR. I fell on hard times and had to sell the car, hated to lose it, always wondered if the buyer knew what he had and restored it, or if it even still exists.

    Later Bob moved to a small town in the foothills of So. Ca. near San Deigo where he built a large quonset-hut studio/apartment, but ended up having to abandon that after a protracted battle with the neighboring land owner over an easement into his property. Only at his estate sale did I become aware of his extended career in art as well as automotive design; I have a couple of his large magnificently-detailed antique auto cutaway drawings. I also learned that his true love was amusement park rides; he helped design the Matterhorn roller-coaster ride at Disneyland in Santa Ana.

    I became an inventor (3 patents) skilled mechanical technician and TIG welder of competition motorcycles, bicycles, and antique aircraft. I retired after a Berkely/Palo-Alto/Spokane career as a machine-design draftsman – all of which skills were subconsciously derived from being Bob Temple’s friend, as my own family was totally non-mechanical

  12. Riley Quarles

    … i enjoyed seeing a photo of my father, and our next door neighbor, dave barr, on your webpage – i also have a book of original photos of clay modeling, etc. like the ones posted here – it is good to hear the background and a few anecdotes behind the pictures – thanks

  13. Leah Wagner Burak

    Thank you for posting this article. My Opa, Fred (Fritz) Wagner, was quite a character, but also a good father to his 10 children and grandfather to his 40+ grandchildren. In his later years, he loved telling stories of his pranks. The mouse story mentioned here is one that I remember well.

    As far as I know, Fritz started out at age 20 as an apprentice at GM. His father, Franz, worked as a clay modeler there as did Fritz’s brother Frank. From there, he went to Packard, and then on to Ford. He retired from Ford in the late 1970s I think.

    He always kept busy with wood working and various building projects for his church. The last project that he built was a beautiful night stand given to my husband and me shortly before his death in 1999.

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