The untold story behind GM’s most iconic cars
Book Release Update
12/12/2015. The Designer Limited Edition Book and the Portfolio are now ready for purchase in time for Christmas delivery. Reserve your copy at the website and Roy will contact you directly.
Roy Lonberger had a front row seat to the greatest show on earth: General Motor’s Magic Kingdom, GM Styling. Orchestrated by none other than the era’s most flamboyant automotive designer, Bill Mitchell.
Roy was Head of Bill Mitchell’s secret Studio-X during the mid-1960s, fleshing out WLM’s latest ideas with fresh concepts that turned into some of GM’s most amazing and outrageous concept cars. I built scale models of some of Roy’s designs growing up, waiting my turn to join the circus.
Mitchell was a complex man. A series of anecdotes in the book from those closest to Mitchell paint a detailed portrait of WLM from various points of view.
The volumes contain many historical photographs of Mitchell and Styling, mouth-watering photos of Mitchell’s concept cars by Michael Furman, and styling renderings from the Mitchell dynasty. Jim Hall’s Chaparrals are part of the story, beautifully photographed by Roy D. Query.
“Doing a small car is like tailoring a dwarf.”
That’s one of the Mitchell quotes that highlight every section in the book. I think I was there when he said that.
“As Head of Bill Mitchell’s secret Studio-X during the mid-1960s, I had an up-close and personal look of Bill Mitchell and his design passion. My story explores the journey of a kid from the streets of Compton who studied engineering at the University of California, graduated with Honors from Art Center in industrial design at the age of twenty-two, and went to work as a designer first for Ford followed two years later at General Motors.
“It also explores the forty year period after I left GM and created Magna Design into a major international product design and marketing communications firm, during which time I had a working relationship with the CEOs of over 250 companies. I know what makes great design and successful business leaders.
“WLM managed his creative team like the conductor of an orchestra, waving his arms like a baton, demanding excellence, and achieving the results of his vision. He was a Maestro.
“And of course the proof of his leadership: The Iconic Cars of GM.”
Photo by Carol Johanson & David Koontz.
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Volume 1 Cover Jacket. Photos by Michael Furman.
How did the book come about?
by Roy Lonberger
My book originated with a request by GM to travel to Detroit to be interviewed at the GM Heritage Center about my years working for Bill Mitchell. The interview was in 2011. A year later I decided to write about the interview for Dean’s Garage. Afterwards I decided to enlarge the interview into a book about Mitchell. Working directly with (and licensed by) GM, I have had an archivist assigned to me for three years providing information, pictures, and internal communication. As I gathered all of this information, it became apparent to me that many people had different impressions of Mitchell. So I decided to turn the book into a compendium of articles and chapters written by various designers and esteemed personalities who knew and worked with Mitchell. The result is a never before seen image of the complete man as a designer, leader, and manager. That is why the book is so compelling. It is also a subset of the larger story that under Mitchell, his styling department became the very first industrial design department used inside industry, as a way of creating customer appeal for future product purchases. Today, the entire auto world owes their genesis to Mitchell.
The original 84 contributors included all of the four succeeding VPs of Design (Welburn, Cherry, Jordan, and Rybicki), a foreward by Peter de Lorenzo, a chapter from many of the chief designers during the period 1958–1977, independent design offices (including ItalDesign, Giorgetto Giugiaro, Chris Bangle, and Bertone), an article by the Dean of Corvette Karl Ludvigsen, and the racing world (Jim Hall, James Musser, and Sir Stirling Moss). Additionally, a world-class exhibition of designer sketches, clay models, and photographs (most of which have never been seen before). Included is an extremely rare collection of all of Jim Hall’s Chaparrals, photos taken by Roy D. Query, who for twenty-five years was the head of photography for Automobile Quarterly. And also, many photos (including the cover) by world famous studio photographer Michael Furman (who prepared the books for Ralph Lauren, Dr. Frederick Simeone, and Peter Mullin). Additionally, dramatic photography was created specifically for the book by Carol Johanson and Dave Koontz. Lastly, Joe Bortz provided open access to his museum of GM dream cars..
Press Release, August 19, 2015:
The long awaited book Maestro: Bill Mitchell and the Iconic Cars of GM Styling by Roy Lonberger was officially introduced August 11 during AutoWeek at the Pebble Beach home of Tex Otto (automobile enthusiast and collector). Over one hundred guests attended the event and cocktail party including Wayne Cherry (retired VP Design, GM and designer of the Cadillac Sixteen), Peter Brock (designer of the Stingray and Shelby Cobra Daytona), Ken Eberts (creator of the AFAS), and Tim McGrane (executive director of the Blackhawk Museum). Additional guest included GM and Ford car designers, AFAS artists, journalists, collectors, and family and friends.
Three years in the making with the support of General Motors, the coffee table book of 706 pages was presented as a prototype in six bound chapters. It covers the complete twenty year period (1958-1977) that Bill Mitchell was VP Styling at General Motors and responsible for the design of the world’s most Iconic cars. It includes contributions by 82 world famous designers, collectors, writers, and racers (including Ed Welburn, Giorgetto Giugiaro, Ken Ludvigsen, Chris Bangle, and Jim Hall). There are 1,127 photographs from leading photographers, collectors, and museums (including the GM Design Archives, GM Heritage Center, Michael Furman, Roy D. Query, and David Koontz).