Yet Another Missing Model.

by Terry Boyce, Society of Automotive Historians Member


Automotive author Terry Boyce is trying to help 81-year-old retired clay modeler Gene Watch find “his” 1968 Dow 1/4-scale concept car—or, at least, determine what happened to it. Designed by Virgil M. Exner, the sleek coupe was modeled in clay and finished in fiberglass by Gene, while he was the in-house clay modeler at the design and development firm Exner then operated with his son, Virgil Exner Jr., in Birmingham, Michigan.


Dow Chemical’s ad agency at the time, D’Arcy, ordered the 1968 Dow to promote products made by their client’s automotive division. Gene recalls, “Virgil gave three proposals to them—they picked the front end of one and the rear end of another, so he came to me to put together what they wanted and he took it back and they bought it.”




The 1968 Dow was featured (along with a completely different 1967 predecessor built by Creative Industries) in a November, 1967 Detroit Free Press article. It was later shown at an SAE meeting, and was probably pictured in Dow ads, too—although Boyce has yet to locate an example. Apparently, the 1968 Dow hasn’t been seen since ’68 or ’69. One rumor has it that after the model had served its purpose, it was taken home by an agency exec who stored it—still in its custom-made transport box—in his basement.

Serving primarily as a modeler, Gene worked in the auto industry for more than three decades. Before joining Exner in his independent venture, Gene had gained much experience, and developed many contacts, during stints at Ford, Chrysler, AMC, and Kaiser Jeep. When Exner began to scale back his operation in late 1967, the well-connected designer recommended Gene to General Motors Design. After hiring in there, Gene worked as a modeler on numerous Pontiac, Chevrolet and Oldsmobile programs, until his retirement in 1992.

Gene has many good memories of his years in the industry, but his time working for the senior Exner—whom he greatly admired—on the Dow car and other projects under development at the time still stands out as a highpoint. If any Dean’s Garage readers have information about the fate of the 1968 Dow concept model they’d like to share, Boyce says he’ll make sure it is relayed to Gene Watch.



  1. Absolutely love Mr Exners work…One of the best in my book…

  2. R

    Curious — where was Virgil Exner’s Birmingham studio? Never knew about it.

  3. Terry Boyce

    The letterhead address for Virgil M. Exner, Inc. in 1968 was 954 North Hunter Blvd., Birmingham. What was Hunter Blvd in that area is today part of Woodward Ave.

  4. Mark W Gregory

    Such a beautifully stunning design Mr. Watch created. The design is far more elegant and upscale than any ponycar of its time. It reminds me more of a performance version of a combination Toronado/Eldorado/GrandPrix model. I would love to own this model. I just can’t imagine if some ad executive has it mothballed away in his basement, why would he not want to proudly display it in his home?

  5. ray fry

    I can think of a few people – not necessarily ‘friends’, who might be able to help in rescuing these models – Chuck Hassel in S. Carolina; Dar Davis in S.W. Michigan; Rich Beck somewhere in Detroit or by now retired back in Kentucky; David Goelz, N. California; Cliff Ghetti in rural New Jersey; another dude whose name escapes my 73-yr old pea brain right now in rural Detroit (Buck Mook); Bill Rohlfing in Clarkston MI.

    You may indeed know these people but if you are interested enough for me to pursue their direct connections I will do my best to get in touch – sincerely Ray Fry 519-372-9954 Owen Sound ON, Canada (Grad of Art Center College of Design 1974_

  6. Hi: A a clay modeling fan I’d sure like to see some in progression photos from Gene Watch’s work. I’m guessing, but it appears as though the original clay was done in approximately quarter scale, wonder if I am correct.

  7. Okay… but where are the pics of the 1967 Dow done by Creative Industries?

    By the way, I just spent a few hours interviewing Verne Koppin (former half-owner of Creative Industries and 93 years old) along with other Creative Industries former employees. This is for my upcoming book on Creative Industries of Detroit.

    As a fellow SAH member, I would certainly be happy to pitch in locating the Dow in question. By the way, Dow also had further involvement (via a 6-degrees situation) with Creative Industries of Detroit.

  8. Terry Boyce

    Thanks to all who have commented on the search for the 1968 Dow so far…

    Ray Fry, special thanks to you for the list of suggested contacts.

    Carl Hungness, you are correct, the 1968 Dow model built by Gene Watch was done in 1/4 scale.

    Leon Dixon, your comments and insights regarding Creative Industries are appreciated and helpful, and we’ll be looking forward to your forthcoming book.

    Thank you for confirming the “1967” Dow was built by Creative Industries. Their model was, to my understanding, the orange car shown, against a yellow background, at the bottom of the original posting (image cropped from a Dow Chemical ad identifying the car as such.)

    The Detroit Free Press featured the “1967” Dow concept (along with the 1968 Exner-built model) in a November 1967 review of industry supplier concept cars. “The 1967 Dow, featured on billboards around Detroit, was a plaster mock-up, painted various colors and photographed in imaginative settings,” the DFP story states.

    The ’67 Dow pictured seems to differ only slightly, at least in frontal aspect, from the “1966” Dow pictured in the ad shown directly above it. It’s easy to surmise the two were variants of the same model. Oddly, the Dow Chemical ads featuring these “1966” and “1967” concepts appeared—several pages apart—in the same summer 1966 issue of Ward’s Quarterly!

  9. Lee Wilcox

    Thank you Mr. Boyce for the very positive, highly complimentary piece you’ve written about my father-in-law, Gene Watch. At 82 years of age, his mind and memory are very sharp and I enjoy listening to his stories working on clay models for the auto industry. He is one of those rare individuals who was able to spend an entire career performing a job that he considered to be “fun”, not work. I especially like the photo you included of him working on the clay model. I do not believe the family has seen that picture before. I will share the picture and the link to your webpage with him and the rest of the family. And, thanks to all of you who’ve commented on Mr. Boyce’s article. This will certainly make “Pop’s” day when he reads what you all have written. Best Wishes!

  10. I’ve always been a fan of Mr. Exner’s work. He had a way of blending radically innovative styling ideas with understated finesse. Thank you for bringing this elegant coupe to my attention.

  11. Shelley Spicer

    I have just come across several promotional items from The 1966 Dow. I have a large matchbook, a grey mug and several pictures. These were items owned by my Grandfather Harold Schertel who was a very early employee of Dow Chemical in Midland Michigan. I am curious if anyone knows of his involvement in this project?

Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

clear formSubmit