Thanks to Tom Falconer for these great Design Staff photos. Some of the photos in this collection is of an Advanced Design scale model show. If anybody knows more information about the show or the designers, please email me. As additional information becomes available, I will update the post.
I vaguely remember seeing a full-size fiberglass model of a Mitchell design with four distinct fender forms that was nicknamed the “four-fendered farkle” by its detractors. I don’t remember if this was it or not. I have been told there were several such designs proposed. There was another full-size Mitchell design model (that may have been designed by Hank Cramer) called the “Phantom.” If memory serves me correctly, Mitchell wanted to make it into a running car for his retirement, but corporate said no.
Wild scale model designs. I remember seeing the Four-Fendered Farkle, yes the photos are it, in the warehouse across 12 Mile Road shortly after I started working at Design Center in 1977. It had a futuristic Oldsmobile look about it. Probably destroyed sometime shortly after I saw it. I also remember seeing the 1964 Runabout Shopper and the Firebird lV. But never since.
The “Four-Fendered Farkle” and the “Phantom” were both done in Studio X for Bill Mitchell. Studio X was located at the north west end of the administration building basement hallway, across the hall from the executive passenger elevator.
THE FOUR FENDERED FARKLE
Later, the second generation Toronado theme was the seed for a more extreme version that was started in Studio X under Bill Mitchell’s direction. It was in process and was sent to a studio that I was newly assigned to, the former Emil Zowado studio, Advanced Design #4. There was an incomplete Oldsmobile C car underway when I was assigned there but we received the new assignment very quickly, within a couple of weeks of my arrival. It was an exciting project.
It was a study for the third generation Toronado, It was very dramatic, Cord-like with cat-walk cooling and a wraparound back-lite. As I recall we worked on it for several months, Irv Rybicki and Jack Humbert were the executives in charge. It was the first time that I had worked for Jack who was a great designer. Because it had four prominent fender shapes it was nicknamed it the “FOUR FENDERED FARKLE”, after a TV comedy routine by Rowan and Martin about a family of four.
After some time we had a full review with Bill Mitchell and he asked us to finish the car and then cast it for a fiberglass model. I am sure that the fake headers and some other details were added after I left. We were trying to make it a more contemporary rather than retro statement. I have several great sketches, one blow-up in black and white.
I was reassigned again to International Studio where we did all the advanced design work for the Citation, the X Car and it’s following front drive cars, J, A and Minivan, Fiero, etc. Kip Wasenko, Andy Hanzel and others worked with me.
All the best,
In reading the above Hank Cramers name is mentioned. That is the first time that I met him, he was working on the FFF and came with it to my studio for awhile. Apparently he did all the work for Bill and really did a great job starting the concept and designing it. He should certainly get credit for the concept and for executing Bill Mitchells thoughts, which often was not any easy task. A great guy he was a lot of fun to work with and I always enjoyed his company. He once gave me a Mangusta model. I lost track of where he went.
EVOLUTION OF THE 1966 TORONADO DESIGN / DICK RUZZIN
The greatest design credit should be given to Don Logerquist, the designer who originated the theme that the red rendering and the car was developed from. This was done on a beautiful quick pencil and pastel sketch that was silvery gray with yellow background and reflections. I remember Stan being very impressed with the clear presentation of the surfaces on the body side.
The sketch was made during our efforts to develop an alternate design for the 1965 Oldsmobile B car that was underway as a full sized clay model in the studio. We started modeling Don’s theme and Chuck Jordan was immediately excited about the design and he brought Irv Rybicki in for an opinion as he had been chief of Olds before Stan Wilen. He called it a design that could be used in the near future on a “special car” for Oldsmobile. It was after that the red rendering was started, worked on by Dave North, Don Logerquist and Stan as advisor. Dave started a tape drawing and did most of the layout and rendering and Don helped develop the look of the surfaces.
Frank Munoz and I were the designers in Oldsmobile Studio.
It is true that Dave North did the tape drawing and rendering with Don’s help. Stan was the one who inspired the front end, a thin long slot like the Firebird lll and I eventually did the rear, a derivative of the Ferrari GT race car called the Bread Van, tailpipes and all. It was called a Kamm-back after a German aeronautical engineer named Kamm who discovered that a chopped off rear on a car resulted in a small wake that reduced aerodynamic drag. Stan helped me with the tailamps, coordinating them with the front grill, asking me to keep them low, above the bumper and as wide as possible.
If you look at the red rendering compared to the final car you will see that it is very different. The wheel flares are subtle, very different than the three dimensional production car. First we saw the big wheel flares as a problem to execute between the front and rear but this was managed very well by Bill Morganti and Gene Messo who were two outstanding sculptors in the studio.
A great group of people, the project was very well managed and coordinated with the Riviera and Eldorado by Stan and Chuck. Bill Mitchell stayed at arms length with the exception of connecting the outboard roof crease to the tail of the car, taking the design to another level and creating a single plain for the two wheel flares. I was able to see and experience what it took to do an outstanding design.
Gary, reading Dick’s narrative, it occured to me that all three domestic car companies must still have (somewhere) vast files of design program photos which no one currently on their staffs could identify accurately, with accompanying anecdotes that explain their relevance. It.seems to me that there is a “window” within which design history can be connected to the recorded images of programs though interviews with designers (either central or peripheral) to the subject, but that the opportunity is slipping away as designers get older. Shouldn’t there be an effort to capture the stories of those design participants while they are still available to be interviewed?
There are some pretty nice sculptural treatments inn all of these cars!
If you send me the email address of this site I will forward the car that I built that Hank Cramer designed when he was working in the basement studio on the south side past the cafeteria and under the wood shop.
Enjoyed the comments, and wanted to add the following:
1. All of the above images (with project descriptions and designers) are in my new book about Bill Mitchell.
2. Dick’s comments about the FFF (xp947) provide valuable information. However the project originated by WLM in 1968 as the xp899 in Studio-X and was to be rotary powered. The original specifications (per the WO) was for a very foreward looking car (and not a retro car). One of the specs was to feature all four fenders easily removable for assembly and service. Jim Shook worked on this car and Roger Hughet did the spectacular rendering above. The only reason it was directed towards Oldsmobile was because it was to use the Toronado transaxle. In 1971, the project was moved upstairs, where it went through starts and interuptions by Oldsmobile Division, and in the summer of 1971, the Division cancelled the project. The clay model was stored for a while in the warehouse building across from the Tech Center.
3. The Phantom was designed by Bill Davis in Studio-X as a retirement tribute personal car for WLM. Pontiac initially agreed to build a running car, but later reneged, and the project never got beyond a full size fiberglass model. The car now resides in the Sloan Museum in Flint. Bill has written a chapter about the program in my book.
4. Maestro: Bill Mitchell and the Iconic Cars of GM Styling will be released for production on Thursday (3/19). Finally. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the three year effort.
So, Mitchell brings Ed Cole the studio one day to look at the four rendered farkle and says to him “The great thing about this fender is, you dent it, you replace it, just like a Volkswagen.”
Now, those separate fenders had as much sheet metal on the inside as the outside, plus, each would need a weld joint and metal-finishing all around the edge, which everyone knew would make them much more expensive to replace than any kind of fender, let alone one from a lowly Beetle. But no one giggled or so much as smiled, and Mr. Cole himself just nodded dutifully, like Prince Charles reviewing aboriginal art presented by a colorful chieftain in some outback territory somewhere.
Mr. Cole did comment on the lack of trunk space, and Bill said. “Anyone who bought this car would be well-off enough to have their luggage sent ahead.”
That reminds me of the quote from Karl Ludvigsen’s book, Corvette, America’s Star-Spangled Sports Car, From the early Corvette days: “No Corvette owner should be caught out in the rain without their spare Cadillac.”
I clearly stated that the FFF came from Studio X to Advance 4. Ralph Amprim was my assistant and Tom Semple was with us as I recall. I think Brooks also came from Studio X to work on it with Hank. Being new to the project we wanted to make the car contemporary as we did not understand what Bill was trying to do. but he insisted on the retro look. He was very kind about our attempts to do that but he knew what he wanted. I just spoke to Roger about the sketch and apparently he was asked to make it per Bills direction and the project went from there. I still believe that an interpretation of that design as a contemporary car, well executed , would be stunning and much more beautiful than the final design. Bill invented the retro look on this car and the Phantom long before it became popular in the industry. He also invented the aero look, functional or not, for motorcycles.
I worked for Bill for many years but never really knew the depth of his talent or the strength of his design commitment. The C7 Corvette book has some very good insight on his early days before and after his employment at GM. He was the real thing, he was not a pretender, loved racing and racing people. I am pretty sure he was an amateur boxer and once offered to take off his coat and “show you how it is done” in International Studio when we had just started the X Car. I looked for help toward Andy Hanzel and Kip Wasenko and they were literally hiding behind their desks. Clare Mackichan came in later and told us that he just wanted to let us know who was boss and that we should not worry about it..
My personal favorite story about Bill happened when I was working for Bernie Smith in Preliminary Design. We were doing a very dramatic coupe that had a lot of influence from a Worlds Fair show car, something X, it had some interesting negative surfaces that were kind of aquatic I had a lot to do with it and it was really starting to take shape when one afternoon the door opened and Bill came in with several people and said a few words to them about the studio. He then stopped talking and took a long look at the model….
The people that came in with him stopped talking and then he said, “That looks like something you would pull out of a lake with a hook”. They walked out.
The image with the Corvette and Firebird, all in side view has the TASC 4 GT clay model in the middle. Done between January and May of 1972 it was a rotary mid-engine coupe done in Studio X by Dick Ruzzin, Ray Hildebrand and Nate Hall. Slightly shorter than the F cars it was architecture developed from the early TASC CAR program componants. The TASC effort put together over five years resulted in the GM FWD cars. The first was the X Car, started in March of 1974.
It was not the clay model, it was the fiberglass that was displayed in the lobby for awhile. After it went to be cast I was assigned to the Advanced Oldsmobile Studio as we were out of business. Emil Zowada went to work for Mack and was given the task of picking the color and following it through the shops.
I thought that it would have looked great in a medium value gun-metal blue or a dark silver with painted wheels.
Reading the above comments by Dick Ruzzin brought back a lot of memories. Here are a few comments from my recollections.
The “Phantom” was Mitchell’s swan song as he wanted to show his distaste for the ever increasing number of government regulations. Mitchell planned to show it at his last annual BOD meeting at the PG but when Howard Kehrl (Mitchell’s boss who he called Col. Klink) saw it, he was furious and ordered it back to Design before it could be shown.
The TASC program mentioned by Ruzzin was a joint endeavor between MacKichan’s Advanced Studios and my Automotive Forward Planning Group. Simply put, it proposed every GM car to be built from a common base of three shoulder widths (53/56/59) with incremental changes in wheel base. Several clay models and seating bucks were shown and a very thick manual was done by my group as a handout. Also proposed was a family of common engines for all GM cars. I showed the display many times to all of the GM Executives and they all agreed the program would save billions, but it did not fly. Why, because Executive bonuses were based on Divisional content and not one exec wanted to rock that boat.
Finally, if you have not seen this link already, you might want to check out my recent interview about the early days of my career. Please check out this 45 minute Podcast: >http://mymediadiary.com/?p=8099<
I think Ken downplays the achievements of the TASC Programs. TASC stood for Total Automotive Systems Concept. It actually was started by Mac and Jim Juif in the Overseas Studio in 1969.
We developed a plan for GM Worldwide based on a modular system of widths and lengths. I remember a rolling 20 foot board that we did in Overseas Studio to explain it with velcro mounted small side view profiles in different colors that literally showed every GM car company in the world and how it would affect each local product line. I think at that time Kens group got involved.
Next was Engineering Staff, Bob Eaton wanted to get involved and build running cars from the then brand new VW Golf/Rabbit, we helped define the vehicles that mirrored the TASC program with 1/4 scale drawings cut up and taped together into different sizes. There were eight of them.
The real cars, altered Rabbits, were built and shown to the Board.
The TASC 2 car was a match for a project called the SFC, Small Family Car, that had been started at Chevrolet Planning. We hooked up with them and started the X Car program that was officially launched in March of 1974 in a brand new and very large International Studio. There a large group of full-size and scale models were done that resulted in X, A and J production cars, all then developed and finished in the production studios for release. An X Car Minivan derivative was also done, to finally come out at Chrysler eight years later and a small mid-engine coupe was included, it finally was done by Pontiac also years later.
Larry Falloon was in charge of a large Interior Studio next door to us that was doing the X Car interior as well as mounting the FIRST interchangeability effort at GM. Weight reduction was also a top priority, for the first time. Aerodynamics and interior noise reduction were also a top priority for the first time. The first product clinics were also done by Kens group.
The TASC program was huge for GM, a small group of about 80 people, Design, Advanced Engineering and the new Product Planning group were involved. Design turned GM around. The Corporation at that time only had a very small planning staff that was really out of touch, they would come to us to see the future and the success that we had inspired them to expand.
There is very good account of Design effort in Special Interest Autos printed about 2010.
The FFF was sent to Advanced Oldsmobile Studio about two weeks after I was assigned there. The TASC4GT was finished. Hank Cramer and maybe Bruce Brooks came with it. Tom Motano, Tom Semple and Nello Tocanelli were in the studio. Bill clearly wanted retro, we had no clue as to what that was as he was inventing it. There were no retro cars.
We worked on it for about six months and got it to the point that Mitchell wanted to cast it. The pictures that are out there are from the show that we had in early March, 1974. The model then went to be cast. We sent drawings to Oldsmobile Studio but no one expected them to embrace it. And they did not.
I remember moonlighting in Dick Ruzzin’s studio helping out for an early showing of the X Car program after it came over from Engineering Staff…seemed like the tension in the studio was palpable. When Mitchell and his entourage came in, he walked over to the 5-door, took a brief look around, and said something like “the g__d___ thing looks like a Czechoslovakian taxi cab,” then turned and walked out. I’m not sure, perhaps Dick can correct me, but Mitchell was upset that work on the styling had been done apart from Design Staff. Maybe Dick got some heat for collaborating with Bob Eaton?
I think he was just commenting about FWD cars in general. Anything between a Camaro and a motorcycle was bad news to him. I di get heat later for helping Engineering Staff but he understood. The evolution of the TASC program, originated by Clare Mackichan, Jim Juif and Chuck Torner, gathered helpers when it was seen to be a viable proposal. We did get support from the in-house marketing study group. Then Engineering Staff offered to help, they wanted to make running cars in all the TASC iterations. Jim Juif was the contact with them, they wanted our help. Time was a big factor so it was decide to build running cars from existing FWD vehicles. The new VW Rabbit, the latest FWD expression in production was chosen. They had eight VW Rabbits flown over and we scanned the car with Design’s new electronic drafting machine. With drawings we were then able to make copies, cut them up, and tape them back together with sometimes added panels. We would widen, lengthen, shorten, etc. and create the TASC iterations, They then followed our direction on paper and built the cars very quickly.
Sometime along the way Engineering Staff decided to build a large FWD sedan and Mack asked me to help them with a design as on their own it would be a visual disaster and they knew it. They admitted that their inability to visualize three dimensional concepts was a real roadblock for them.
So I went over a number of times and worked on a scale model. My limitation was an outside sculptor who added no value at all. A while later Bill Mitchell secretary called me and said he was coming to see me. That was scary, I had never had that happen before. He had spoken to Mack and I did not know what he told him.
He asked if I had worked on the car, I said Mack had asked me to as they were going to do it whether we helped or not. I told him we all believed that on their own they would do a really ugly car and that would help none of us. He nodded and left, later Mack asked what happened and I told him.
I don’t remember if I ever saw the finished car.
Years ago, I saw a photo take in the Cadillac studios, of a clay proposal – in the process of being created – Eldorado (probably a ’59 model) taken from the rear of the car, showing the production rear fenders (with the large round back-up lamps in ‘pods’ just as they appeared on the production car), but with dual fins. Instead, there was a single central fin down the middle of the trunk. Is that photo still in the archives somewhere? Is it possible to see it again? The car was radical and very very different from the ’59 Eldo that was produced.
Sorry . . . correction to the above . . . “without dual fins”
In 1976 Bill Davis began the design of Bill Mitchell’s retirement tribute car in Studio X that at first was named Madam X and had a notch back design theme. That then transitioned into a fast back design and a name change to the Phantom. Bill Davis was instrumental in saving the fiberglass model, that was completed in 1977, from being scraped and as above mentioned by Roy Lonberger, the car resides at the Sloan Museum in Flint, MI to this day.