Dean’s Garage is dedicated to my dad. His middle name was Dean (and so is mine).

Dean’s Garage is dedicated to an age of optimism and craftsmanship that is long since past. To the dreams and hopes of a bygone era. Perhaps the posts on this blog will stir something within and revitalize a neglected spirit of creativity.

About me. I grew up in Riverside, California a few miles from the Riverside International Raceway. It was closed in 1988 and then bulldozed to make way for a mall. Shame. That was the only thing Riverside had going for it. Now we have one too many malls and not enough RIRs.

I graduated from the Art Center College of Design when it was still in Los Angeles. I worked at General Motors as an Exterior Designer when it was called Design Staff. I worked under Bill Mitchell, Irv Rybicki, and Chuck Jordan. I worked in Pontiac, Buick, Olds, and Cadillac studios. Dave Holls picked a sketch of mine off the wall that became the 1992 Oldsmobile Achieva. Studio Chiefs I worked under include Ron Hill, John Schinella, Jerry Hirschberg, Wayne Kady, Bill Porter, John Perkins, David North, and Dick Ruzzin. I have been freelancing DBA Performance Design since 1988.

If you have something that you think would be appropriate to post on Dean’s Garage, email: deansgarageinfo at

For a look at my design work, visit Performance Design.

Gary D. Smith

What is in Dean’s Garage?

1965 Corvette C2R. Build photos. Finished Car Photos.

1971 Corvette LT1

1989 Corvette Z51 6-speed

2001 Corvette Z06

1989 Pontiac Turbo Trans Am

1992 Achieva SCX

1961 Chevrolet Apache

1986 Chevy Van G20

1953 Ford Jubilee

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”—John 5:24

  1. Hi Gary; This is a new look to your site ?

    Also I was curious as to the history of your logo mark, The red white and blue circle with the jet in it? I think I saw that on a GM display somewhere.Thanks, Don.

  2. Don,
    The old WordPress theme was heavily modified but no longer compatible with the new version of WordPress. So the whole thing needed to be updated. This new theme is very flexible and allows for 3 columns, although I prefer a design that is more of a design statement in itself. But to develop a new theme is prohibitively time consuming. As far as the logo goes, I “borrowed” it from GM; it is the old GM Firebird logo that first appeared on the tail fin of the Firebird One. It is used on the helipad at the GM Tech Center. Copy and paste this 42.512121,-83.044796 into

  3. Jim Brady

    Hi Gary, I really enjoy your site and often share it with my car enthusiast friends. I was just reading your note about the site being dedicated to your father. I have often look at the photo on banner noting that I recognized Dean at the wheel of the Corvair GT (?). Should I assume this is the same Dean? I worked at GM Photographic in the 60s before coming to Design and sometimes would chat with him about the time he spent photographing in Styling before Mitchell created his own photo group. Your dad was a grand guy. Jim Brady

  4. Jim,
    My dad always indulged my sometimes misplaced car enthusiasm, took me to the Riverside International Raceway, helped me get through Art Center, was co-driver on the trip to Michigan when I was hired by GM. On my first day at Design Staff, Chuck Jordan took us both on a tour. His middle name was Dean, same as mine. But he wasn’t in the photo of the Monza GT. He retired in the ’70s from Alcan Aluminum in Riverside, California and died in 1980.
    Thanks for your thoughts.

  5. Gary–

    This is my first perusal of your site, and it’s a bulls-eye as far as my personal interests are concerned. I’m going to have lots of fun wading through this assemblage of automobilia, and my car design students (many of whom are sadly lacking in historical perspective pre-1980 or so) will be eventually assigned written reports on historical topics, with your site being a primary reference and jumping-off point.

    My enthusiasm is once again refueled!

    –Paul Wilczynski
    Academy of Art University

  6. Sam Rondone

    Thanks for this excellent informative site & your input on the Achieva SCX. In 1992 I bought a new teal SCX like yours & installed a 1991 Cutlass W-31 PROM to raise the rev limit from 6,800 to 7,200 RPM’s to match the performance of the 1991 Cutlass W-31 which Hot Rod Magazine ran through the 1/4 mile in 14.7 seconds at 97 mph. The 1992 SCX also was tested at 67 mph though the slalom by I forget which magazine, the quickest of ALL 1992 production cars. Beautiful styling, very quick, extremely agile, 30mpg average with mine with the AC on, one of my favorite performance cars of many to date. I do wish it had come with the Rocket Parts Torsen differential, rear disc brakes, & upgraded apolstery. Congradulations on a job very well done with the SCX!
    A fellow enthusiast,
    Sam Rondone

  7. The “Firebird logo” was also painted on the helipad at the modern GM Engineering Building, constructed for Rochester Products Division in Rochester, NY. This four story glass cube (500-600 people capacity) was built in the mid-80s. I helped with the specs for the computer network wiring. This is now a Delphi R&D location and the helipad is still there. The building is visible from the intersection of I-390 and the New York State Thruway in Henrietta, NY. ( 43.044055,-77.651925)

  8. Norm James

    I’m pretty sure the “Firebird” logo came from GM’s business airline fleet which pre-dated the Firebirds.

    We had an occasion in the early 60’s to have a bunch of us ride one of their planes, between several Michigan airports, to rank accelleration rates on take-off on their suitability for public mass transportation systems. It was a nice change of pace.

    The new site format looks good.


  9. Melissa Belevender

    Hello Gary,
    Just came across your website while doing some research on designers my father worked with. He is Norbert Ostrowski and I will ask him to contribute some first-person accounts of automobile styling, from the 1960’s forward. He still gets together with other retired designers over coffee. He has some great stories to share. Recently he was telling me about the early concept drawings of AMC’s Pacer. Thanks for your wonderful online archive!
    Melissa Belevender

  10. David R.North

    Had the chance to recommend Dean,s Garage to soon car guys,
    Told them about Gary Smith who designed some great cars while working with us, every one loved the little red Olds you did,the boss of Olds Bill Lane raved about it on a plane ride back from the Chicago auto show,he told my wife this was a sure winner. You were well liked by everyone and we were sad when you left,
    One of the real good guys.
    Snowing here in Montana,Pat &I are thinking sunny in AZ!
    Take care Gary

  11. Allen Ornes

    You have a unique site where I can spend many hours. Great fun to see the sketches and read comments from designers I have worked with or knew at Art Center. Thanks for all your work to keep this going.

  12. rich dahl

    Nice site, Dean!

    Found you through a search for Ted Youngkin, an old instructor I had while at Art Center in ’91-’92. Still use the skills I was trained in from him in perspective class, etc. Thankful for the education I received.

    Funny, I recall taking shop class with a lot of Trans majors. Was great running the mill, etc.

    Cheers & keep up the good work. Loved the Lemans vid.
    Rich Dahl

  13. Steve Stitle


    Just ran across your site. My father was a GM pilot from the 1950s through the late 70s. At one time they had 70 aircraft including one seaplane. GM planes were not identified as such for fear of vandalism—they just had your logo on the tail. (Search “images” General Motors Air Transportation Services for a photo of a General Dynamics Convair with the tail logo.) The Firebird designers stole the logo from GMATS but the pilots were proud of its use!

    Steve Stitle

  14. j e

    Hi Dean,

    In 1977 the firm for which I worked transported 12 of GM’s “idea” cars from Detroit to the New York Coliseum for an auto show in tribute to the retirement of Bill Mitchell. A few weeks later I was treated to a visit of the underground Tech Center design area and garage vaults by Dick Henderson. There I saw my favorite of the collection, the racing Stingray Corvette built on the mule SS chassis. The Stingray was in one vault along with a Corsair Monza GT, Monza SS, Y Job, a Jaguar Mitchell had modified by filling in fender seams, and a couple more I don’t remember. I sat in the Stingray and when entering noticed a plaque on the bulkhead behind the driver’s seat. It was the grill badge Mitchell designed for the Automobile Racing Club of America depicting a frontal, action view of a Blower Bentley. Years later, I stumbled onto two of these badges and still have them, along with the Press Kit of that show and my Tech Center Pass.

    Walking through the design studios with Dick, through one shop, mechanics were working on a heavily modified Camaro (maybe it was a Firebird) with a Ferrari V-12 drivetrain, four-pipe exhaust system, brass-lined doorjambs and Ferrari instrument panel. The front license plate said Pegasus. Some time later, I saw this car sitting in Mitchell’s driveway with a For Sale sign! Wonder where it is now.

    Best regards,
    j e lineback

  15. Mark

    Hi Dean,
    Just stumbled on your site.
    Love it.
    Love seeing all the old drawings.

    Lately I’ve been curious about a couple past projects at GM.

    First is, I REALLY want to know what GM (Chevy & Pontiac) were planning for the replacement of the 4th gen Camaro & Firebird. I’m not talking about the work that got underway in 2003 or 04 that brought us the 5th gen Camaro as we know it. I’m talking about back in the ’90s. What were they planning as the F-body replacement? Was it to be another low nose sports car? Was it going to move to more of a sedan chassis and go back to a more 3 box design?
    Are there any sketches/drawings/models/pictures of the studies of the planned replacements?
    Who worked on the cars back then? Any interviews with them?

    When did the designers, stylists, and engineers know the plug was pulled on the cars?

    Did any work continue on possible replacements after the plug was pulled.

    I think this would be a great in-depth piece.

    Secondly, what was the deal with the GM-80 program? The proposed FWD 4th gen Camaro & Firebird that got axed. A few pics are floating around but no good stories.

    Thanks for putting out a cool website.

  16. It’s really nice to discover your website that pays homage to both your Dad and an era when like you inferred, optimism and craftsmanship took center stage. As if surviving the Art Center wasn’t a big enough achievement, you actually made a career out of it. Congratulations on your many achievements and this cool website.

  17. Great stuff, Dean, a great theme and a lot of passion.

    We share the same nostalgia for a glorious past made by arts and crafts (think about us, in Italy, we have lost Pininfarina, Bertone, Giugiaro, Michelotti, Scaglietti, etc.).

    Let’s hope that wisdom will somehow come back for the good of future generations.

    Thank you for your blog and congrats from Italy!

  18. Really enjoy your site, am subscribed so I get notified about new articles, love the concept art especially, and learning about the talented people that designed so many of my favorite cars. Have also sent a number of my car-design-loving friends here. I have owned a fair number of 73-77 GM A-bodies in my time, currently have a 74 El Camino I’m restoring and customizing a bit, and have had a heck of a time finding any concept art from that program around the internet, never mind any clay variation photos. I’ve done searches on your site and found some images, the most being related to the Pontiac variants including the Grand Am, which are great, as I have owned 2 73 LeMans and a 77 Grand Prix SJ, but wanted to ask if you have any articles specific to the general development of the 73-77 A-bodies as a whole. Or, if you have a source for such I can check out. Thanks for all the hard work you put into the site, it really is a treasure trove of design art and info.

  19. Howard Rundell

    The logo is in fact the GMATS (General Motors Air Transport Section) “Speedbird@ that adorned the aircraft until misguided management had them removed. I proudly flew with GMATS from 1977 until 2006.

  20. Jim Keeler

    Love this site…

    Jim Keeler ex Revell hobby kit designer and Hobby Kit Product Manager and AFX Racing Product Manager.

  21. Keith Kendall

    Gary – Great site! I still have the Pontiac/Datsun 510 you drew for me. Got it framed really well. Question to you – My father is shown modeling a Grand Am in the Pontiac Studio. Do you have a digital copy of this? I can’t seem to find this one in his negatives.

  22. GARY,
    Ben Salvadore told me about your site quite awhile ago. I am really glad he did so as It has been a great source of unique and special entertainment for me. I think you minimize your contributions at GM Design, no one could stay as long as you did without contributing at a high level. We vaguely knew each other until Dave assigned you to Cadillac Studio where you helped us build a design foundation for the 1992 Seville and Eldorado.

    We were all sad when you left but we knew that you had planned it for a long time and being the resourceful person that you are that you would be alright. You have certainly done that in creating one of the very best sites on the internet for design oriented car enthusiasts, that is a fact and it is important to a lot of people. I recently saw one of the sketches that you created in Cadillac Studio in the office of the owner of one of the major Cadillac dealers here in Detroit. He said that Chuck Jordan gave it to him years ago and that when he retired he was going to take it home. A lot of people have looked at that sketch, a car that no one ever saw before, beautifully and convincingly drawn and rendered.

    I look forward to seeing the site grow , the new look is classy and elegant, a great reflection of you and what you learned at GM Design.
    Dick Ruzzin

  23. Did I see a THX1138 reference?

  24. Hi Gary,
    Dick Ruzzin aimed me in your direction. Seriously chuffed to see the image that you chose for your header. When the Monza GT and SS were launched I was the GM press guy looking after their release to the publications. As usual the GM Photographic guys used a lot of creativity in picturing these wonderful cars, none better than the flame re-entry theme used in that image. Awesome!
    If anyone has the little folder used at auto shows they’ll find me peering into the engine bay.
    Those were great days!

  25. Patrick Kelley

    Hi Gary…think I would like to meet you at some point…planning on a book of my Concept Art collection and would love to chat…happy to come there if you have the time and inclination. Headed to the Peterson some time next month and I think you are down south? …happy to forward a brochure of a small show that we did in Placerville, CA a year ago…just tell me where to direct it…tremendous website-tells me how much I don’t know!

  26. Chuck Brunson

    I came across your site while researching a picture to explain to a co-worker what an Olds Achieva SCX is and looks like. I bought our SCX new in November 1992- it’s #699 of 1146 produced in 92- black/graphite interior. The car was my wife’s daily driver from delivery until 1997, when I purchased her a SWB Olds Silhouette (she wanted it) and I took over the Achieva. I drove it until 2001 when my oldest son took it over (I bought a new Olds Alero GLS). He drove it until 2007- a fuel injector failure parked it for a couple of years (my lack of diagnostic skills) until my youngest son retrieved it and revived her. She came back to me late last year, and I’m in the process of bringing her back to her glory. She runs fine, just needs interior and exterior love. I don’t know what it is about that car, but I figure I’ll pass her along to my grandkids (hopefully)!
    Your design is timeless. Thanks for penning my odd little passion.

  27. John Harrington

    Doe’s anyone know how I may contact or email- Dave Cook, the builder of the Bill Mitchell tribute 69 Pontiac GP? I’m about to start a frame off restoration of a 78 GP, and I had some questions I was hoping to run by him… His 69 is absolutely stunning, and although much more customized than my plans, I wanted to get his thoughts on a few items. I’ve always been a huge Pontiac fan; recently having a completed a frame off restoration of a 77 Trans Am SE, with a few performance and reliability enhancements. I purchased the car a few years ago from a gentleman in Georgia, with around 34k miles on the clock, and in need for some TLC… While hindsight tells me overkill, I had a very thorough- 3 year frame off nuts and bolt restoration; with powder coated frame and underside, and more than necessary, but ended up with a very nice looking bandit trans am. While I understand not for everyone’s taste, I always wanted one, and luckily able to have one built for me..

    As far as my interest contacting Dave Cook, I’ve specifically been crazy about the Grand Prix’s- G –body and older. When I was in high school in the 1980’s, I had an 86 Buick T-Type, which was a great car in its own, but I helped a buddy of mine restore a 78 Grand Prix SJ. We pulled a Pontiac 400 out of a very early 70’s GTO, and had it rebuilt with an upgraded transmission (can’t remember what), and we slowly worked on the interior and the body… Auto transmission with a floor console shift, and power everything, the interior was as spectacular as the outside, which we painted a very sharp/ crisp white. Not a creamy white, more of a cold BMW color white, and with the Rally 2 wheels with white letter tires, was a sight to be seen. Unfortunately that car was sold some years later, and life goes on, but I’m looking to do something fun with the 78 I picked up a couple years ago, which has just been sitting in storage. Anyway, if someone can help me contact Mr. Cook, I would greatly appreciate it..

  28. Dan Radowicz

    When were you at GM? My dad was part of Parts Fab for over 40 years beginning around 1946. I wanted to follow in his footsteps, but he decided I needed to go to college – so off to Art Center I went. RIR was one of my favorite haunts.
    D. Radowicz

  29. Douglas Raap


    I’m a “next generation” transportation clay modeler. Meaning I’ve only been in the industry for the past 33 years. Never in Detroit, Only west coast and Europe. Trained by Bob Marianich from GM. How did the modelers get the clay to shine in some of those old photos? Nice trick to see the highlights before DiNoc. Thanks for the fantastic web site.


  30. Nicholas Maxim

    Hi, my name is Nicholas, and my son is Kai. He’s 8. Dean’s Garage is invaluable in teaching my son about what he loves—everything classic and truly great. He’s a Mustang fanatic, along with a lover of Camaros and Challengers. But especially every period of Mustang. Hot Wheels stirs his enthusiasm, and Dean’s Garage informs his mind with fascinating facts that are found nowhere else. I love this site. I return frequently. We live near London, England, and seeing these great beasts in person is a rare privilege. You are feeding and nourishing his mind, and serving to bring my son and I ever closer. I cannot tell you how thankful I am for that. His knowledge is unique, since nobody else in his school has any idea who Dick Teague, John Najaar, or Joe Oros are!

  31. Love the website.

    Bob Nixon, designer at AMC passed away at age 86 on February 9, 2019. He worked with Dick Teague on a lot of great designs. I’m surprised I haven’t seen it mentioned here.


    Bruce Kaiser

  32. Hi Gary,
    The link for A Century of Style is broken. I clicked on the cover picture and was taken to a non-functioning web page.
    Paul Villforth

  33. Mike Lee

    Years ago, in some publication, I saw a photo of a proposed ’59 Cadillac full-sized clay – in the studio – taken from behind the car. There was one central ’59 fin (more like that of the GM Firebird III) that was one of the twin fins that ended up on the final ’59 Cadillac. It looked odd, but very Mitchell-esque. Has anyone a copy of that photo….or…know where it is now? I would appreciate any leads. -Mike Lee (

  34. Ron Gay

    Just finished reading bio of Virgil Exner. Near the end of book referring to Ex Jr. it states he was responsible for designing the Volvo P1800 coupe. I can’t find any more info on that claim. Any suggestions? The car is conspicuously inspired by the ’53 Studebaker Champion Starliner, as is the Hawk by the same company.

    Ron G. Pontiac, Michigan

  35. Always nice to see these surviving cars from 1960’s drag scene. Bill Rider is my grandfather and was mechanic on the Jerry Alderman Galaxie. Bill passed in 2010 and I have collected memorabilia from all the cars he had built and worked on. Is the Galaxie in this collection available for viewing? Thanks, Dennis Parker. Phoenix Arizona

  36. Don J Leblanc

    Hi Gary;
    I was in youtube and discovered that designer Frank Stephenson, has a channel.
    Very informative and interesting, from a design stand point.
    Keep up the great work you do here, and stay safe.

  37. Jed Chevalier

    Hello Gary,

    I am a frequent visitor to your site and a lifelong fan of American auto styling. I have a 1980 Seville and a 1995 Fleetwood Brougham. I was looking at a base model Fleetwood with no vinyl top the other day and I noticed that there was a horrible filler strip between the c-pillar and roof. My Seville is smooth here but almost all new cars have this unfinished area with a plastic strip jammed in. I was doing some research and I found that it even has a name that correlates to it’s unsightly nature, the “roof ditch.” Is there a story here? How did most cars have finished roof seams but devolve to the roof ditch? It must have been a trend of the 90s and I imagine cost was an issue, but even an expensive car like a Cadillac has this glaring flaw in the styling. I’m super curious about this and this seems like the right place to ask the question.

    Best wishes and keep up the good work.


  38. KristleBelle Daharsh

    Hi all, my sister Mary Daharsh and I KristleBelle Daharsh are sad to say, our father Donald Daharsh my he rest in peace has passed away December 11, 2020. His love and passion for creating something and bringing it to life was his greatest work of art.

  39. Marietta (Weekley)

    It was nice to come across the names and a few pictures of what was my father’s career. My father, Rodney (Rod) Weekley, worked in the Olds studio. I have some of the pictures that are on this site (the Semple bus). I was always amazed at how much time was devoted to antics such as this – I’ve never had a job that would have allowed this and yet I’m sure it was the pre-curser to what some companies try to replicate (not usually successfully) for the purpose of team building. As shown here, in it’s much more native and genuine form, it really showcases the level of creative talent in those design studios back then. I will share this site with Rod’s grandchildren – who he never got to meet due to his untimely passing at the age of 54.
    Thank you for the efforts to develop such a site.

  40. Fitz

    Every time I think I know a fair amount about auto industry history I read a story like the Lincoln design history and learn there is so much more to know. Thanks.

  41. Scott

    Mr. Smith,
    My name is Scott Lucas. My wife Marianna is George Barbaz’s niece. My mother in law, Anne (96) would love to be able to purchase one or more of Uncle George’s original automobile renderings to pass down in the family. Are you interested in and able to sell one or more of his pieces? Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.
    All the best, Scott (734) 377-7793

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