By Bill Michalak
My desire to design cars for General Motors started at the age of eight. Like many other kids with the same goal, I was fortunate to actually see my dream come true. Employment came by way of Chuck Jordan in 1966 during my last week at Pratt Institute in New York. During my 35 years at GM, retiring in 2001, I was in every studio accept Cadillac Production.
Recently, I attended the third Fisher Body Guild Reunion, meeting many old friends. I never did finish a model; however, the cover car and many sketches in the last Guild book were my contributions. The drawings were all completed when I was in Design Development.
Moving on to my first assignment. Olds studio was a wonderful and “dream” fulfilling time in my life! Working on the 442 and Toronado and the 98 and 88 Oldsmobiles was very exciting. After about three years in Olds, it was off to Pontiac to work on the new “A” bodies; Grand Ams, Grand Prixs, and show cars. A long stint in Chevy I studio followed. Working on two generations of Caprice and two generations of the Monte Carlo. We also worked on some non-production concepts in a production studio. What a great thrill!
Multi-Purpose Studio followed which eventually changed to Truck II. Two generations of the El-Camino, S-10 pickups, Blazers and M-Van were mixed with show trucks and concept vehicles of all kinds. Moving on to Advance One Studio, I was able to get back to designing cars. From a small production car to the EVI, small electric vans, and all kinds of show cars, to concepts for production cars, filled a few years. I then jumped around to a few Advanced Studios to end up in Saturn working on the second generation Saturn. Olds production, where I started, was next to work on the start of the SUV craze.The next few years was a transition time at GM. All of the studios and their functions changed. My last three years at GM were occupied working on production Buicks and helping out on the LaCrosse and Bengal show cars.
Retiring from GM after 35 years ended my dream. I still go to many car shows and I am involved with the League of Retired Designers. Since retiring, I keep myself busy by selling Automotive Art, both fine art and studio concept art. I guess I just can’t get cars and art out of my system.
A Gallery of Bill’s work at GM with captions
When I started GM Design Staff in March 1973, Tom Covert and I shared a townhouse in Birmingham. Bill Michalak and Ron Will shared a townhouse in the same complex. That’s how I first became acquainted with Bill.—Gary