A. G. Spear Jr.’s Idea Sketchbook
Designer for GM, Chrysler, and Ford
Gil Spear grew up in New York where both of his parents were commercial artists. Spear started as the first industrial design student at Pratt Institute in 1934 but had to drop out in 1935 because of a lack of funding. He took a job as a cartoonist and, in 1937, he was hired at GM as a designer in Bill Mitchell’s Cadillac studio. When Spear was laid off at GM in 1938, he took a job with Norman Bel Geddes designing theatrical sets. When Bel Geddes was hired to design the GM exhibit at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, Spear assisted in building an elaborate city of the future ride. After the World’s Fair was over, Spear took a job in Chrysler’s design studio and was responsible for the design of the 1942 Chrysler grille. He left Chrysler in June 1942.
During World War II, Spear worked for Briggs Manufacturing as an aircraft salvage engineer. Towards the end of the war, he also started his own industrial design business.
In April 1947, Spear decided to build a new house for his family. To qualify for a construction loan, the bank told Spear he needed a regular pay check. Answering an ad in the newspaper, Spear applied at Ford’s Design Department, where he intended to work only long enough to make it look good to the loan officer.
Spear’s first assignment at Ford was to complete the 1949 Ford clay model that Oros and Engel had started, so engineering drawings could be finalized from it When Oswald instituted the studio system in 1947, Spear was appointed first head of the Ford Design Studio and he was in charge of updating the 1950 and ‘51 Fords.
In May 1948, Gene Bordinat asked Spear to organize Ford’s Advanced Studio as a means of getting fresh design talent into Ford and providing new ideas for future Ford products. In late 1954 Spear became head of the Special Projects Studio, where he supervised the design of the D-523 and the D-524. In mid-1955, Spear left the Styling Center to become the head of the Engineering Department’s separate design studio (Special Development Studio).
While at the Special Development Studio, Spear supervised completion of the D- 523 and D-524 and development of the Bimini, the Midshipman and the Personal Safety Vehicles. In February 1958, Spear returned to the Styling Center as an executive designer in the Ford pre-production studio. He later became an executive designer for international operations and in the Lincoln- Mercury studio.
From 1967 to 1971, Spear was chief designer at Ford of England. He retired in 1974. Spear (as of 1999) continues to work with patent attorneys perfecting new products.
Posted by permission.
Photos courtesy of Ford Archives.
From Ford Design Department—Concepts & Showcars, 1932-1961 by Jim and Cheryl Farrell
Book review to come.
For book ordering information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org