by Ron Will

Gary-Graham

1954 first place winner by Gary Graham—missing.

 

The Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild contest was promoted by GM Design genius Harley Earl as a way to seek out young talented car designers. Young men from 11 to 20 years old were challenged to build 1/12 scale car models of their own design. The reward for the best designs were college scholarships and a chance at landing a job in the prestigious GM Design studios. Thousands of models were entered over the years. For hundreds it was the first step toward an automotive career.

During the 1950s and 1960s GM Styling or Fisher Body bought several hundred of these 1/12 scale Fisher Body contest model cars from their teen age builders. These were then used to promote the Guild Design contest at department stores, Motorama Shows, schools. and in the GM Futureliner Bus tours. Most of the models purchased were top national or regional winners. Several winners did not want to sell their models, so GM made casting replicas of them to display with other models.

GM-Fisher-Body-Guild-Model-Collection-3 GM-Fisher-Body-Guild-Model-Collection-2 GM-Fisher-Body-Guild-Model-Collection-1

All of these models have since disappeared without a trace. Were they destroyed, given to employees, or are they still hidden in deep storage somewhere in the GM archives? If they were stored, they would probably have been stored in their shipping boxes. It’s hard to believe that these treasures of design would have been thrown out. These are two of the missing models are the 1st place winners from 1954 and 1955.

If anyone has any information on what might have happened to these models, please contact Dean’s Garage. It is one of the unsolved mysteries of the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild. Note: Neither the GM Archives and Special Collections or the GM Heritage Center has any idea where the models disappeared to.

1955-Milt-Antonick-1st-Nat-Sr-original

1955 first place winner by Milt Antonick—missing.

 

Shipping-box

If the models still exist, they are probably stored in their original shipping boxes.

15 Comments
  1. Hello… Very sad to hear about these beautiful models being missing. As an old model builder myself (I still have all my FBCG instructions and mailing packets as well as one car) I would be sick over such a loss. As it is, at least two of my balsa-wood carved and sculpted cars disappeared in the 1960s–though not at GM.

    I had original wheels/tires and other items stored in the basement of our house in Detroit for decades. Still more of my models disappeared in 2001 from my house in Southern California. Some of the things taken would be priceless now.

    It is also not widely known today, but Packard Motor Car Company also sponsored a similar scale model contest for a short time. It was held at Cranbrook Academy north of Detroit and winners got similar prizes to those given by FBCG.

  2. Mark W Gregory

    I have always been fascinated by the history of the GM Craftsman’s Guild contest. I marvel at the talent that all of the young men had, wanting so much to be like them. This contest ended well before my time. I was born in 1961. I am saddened now to read this story that so many of the models are missing. But I am not surprised. I am willing to bet that over the course of the past 50 years that they were slowly taken from General Motors archives by employees and either hidden away or erroneously given to their children who would not appreciate the historical value of such beautiful pieces of automotive history. However, I do hope that most are again found and preserved for posterity.

  3. Tony Caracciolo

    I was the junior national scholarship 3rd place winner in 1955. My model was purchased by Fisher Body and was displayed with a few other winners at the 1956 GM Motorama. Photos of the displayed models are in the Fisher Body brochure from that show. I worked at Fisher Body Central Engineering at the GM Tech Center in Warren MI from 1968-73 and never was able to track down anyone who knew the status of the models. But I did witness the scrapping of many vehicles and parts that almost brought tears to my eyes. I suspect that many of the models were also scrapped or perhaps some were salvaged by employees. It would sure be nice to recover some of them.

  4. DICK RUZZIN

    In 1961 I was a new hire at GM Styling and that early fall we judged the models that came in at the old Park Hotel near the DIA in Detroit. I think Jerry Brockstein was one of our judging group, headed up by Sparky Bohnstedt.

    I never heard what happened to them, Fisher Body had a similar contest where models were made to emulate the Fisher Body coach, which was also their logo.

    They may have started it first. I know a couple of people who still have their design models so not all were purchased.

    DICK RUZZIN

  5. Paul H Richardson

    After entering the Craftsman’s Guild contest for 6 years, winning 6 first state and 5 Regional awards, I finally won the Senior First National award (a $4,000 scholarship) in 1951. I was asked to participate in making a movie to be shown in high schools in an effort to interest boys in entering the contest. This movie started out with footage of an F-86 Sabre Jet in flight, and went on to show how the F-86 influenced the styling of the Le Sabre, Harley Earl’s show car. The movie then showed how I had designed and constructed my model featuring shots of me at each stage of that effort, culminating with shots of the convention and awards in Detroit I later tried to locate a copy of that movie, but, alas, all copies had apparently been destroyed. I, at least, still have my model.

  6. Hugh

    If they were given away some should have shown up on eBay by now. Some of the Hudson plaster design department models have.

  7. Ray Hanley

    This a great topic. Someone knows … Keep digging!

  8. Bob Winston

    My father entered the contest back in the 1930s. Back then it was a model of the Fisher Body coach. My grandmother had the two that he made, but they disappeared after her death. I do have a picture of him holding the coach. The detail was remarkable: leather straps for springs, cast metal shackles, cast metal plaques, velour interior, beautifully painted. He came in second and I wonder how good the first place must have been. He went on to be a famous artist.

  9. Walter miller

    I think many of the models are in private hands and were returned to their owners. I own many of them and some shipping crates and they can be seen on my website Moaaad.org along with hundreds of Detroit automobile styling renderings and related styling historical documents.

  10. Bob Purrier

    Being only a second-place state winner in 1949,50,and 51, I still have all my models. I attended the reunion at Scottsdale in 2013 with photos of my models. Many on-hand samples exemplified the much greater freedom allowed in later years as to what cars might look like.

  11. Peter Hammer

    I was a member of FBCG from 1956 – 1964, and entered models the last eight of those years. I have all of my models, including the two that won first state awards. I truely hope the missing models will show up intact.

  12. SAM BIVINS

    I also was interested in auto design as a very young man. I wrote GM,Ford, Chrysler and AMC about possibilities of working in their design departments and was told they only hired from art center in California. I wrote for the kit to enter fisher body contest and my dad had a block of soft pine cut to my specs, but him being a plumber, my tools were very few, so that never was finished. But I’ve spent almost 60 years working in the auto collision industry and a lifetime of custom body work and painting. I’m 72 now and still do flames and other custom painting, so I guess I won anyway. Sam

  13. Bud Magaldi

    I too was a member of the FBCG, from 1958,59,60,62,& 65. Somehow my 59 car disappeared many years later, (probably in a move,or lost) having had them on display at our house, I had photos and a good recollection of what it looked like and was able to recreate it as best I could using the same hand tools used to make the original, only this time instead of using pine, I used a close cell foam. This model appears on page 197 of the book Inside the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild, edited and produced by Mr John Jacobus, who we as past members of the Guild owe a rousing “HARRAH” for rekindling the flame and passion, we had for such a wonderful institution…

  14. 16 mm movies recording the 1946 Guild Convention as well as a 1958 era color promo film shown to HS audiences about the historic Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild were auctioned on Ebay along time ago. A collector sent me DVD copies. They are fascinating pieces of history to see and hear along with the RCA Victor records (78 rpm) which recorded the broadcast of the Guild Awards Banquet Ceremony in 1953 and given to the Guildsmen. John L. Jacobus, Silver Spring MD

  15. Terry Graboski

    There is going to be a Fisher Body Craftsmen’s Guild Reunion as part of the 2016 Art Center Car Classic, October 22–23 at the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California. We are expecting upwards of 100 model cars and a few coaches from the 1930s through 1968, the last year of the competition.

    If you are interested in displaying your model, contact Art Center.

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