Classiq Designer Series—Featuring Bill Michalak

There are pivotal moments in any person’s life that shape who they are and what they do. For Bill Michalak there are moments and people that have helped guide him on that path to become an automotive designer. Listen in as he tells us about specific cars, teachers and peers that have inspired his talent along the way. Bill’s dream was always to design for General Motors and he was lucky enough to achieve his dream, as well as getting many of his design into production while working for Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Chevrolet and Buick.

The final video in the series will feature Bill Porter.

Video Credits: Julie Hyde-Edwards and Robert Edwards for making the videos possible, Clasiq for producing the series. Sponsored by Farmers Insurance.

Published on Dean’s Garage by permission by Charlie Rubin, Clasiq COO and Founder.

GM Designer Bill Michalak

Design Then and Now

Designers are always challenged to envision what’s next. They are asked to dream 5, 10, 50 years in future, but when it comes to manufacturing, sometimes those dreams don’t become a production reality. As their designs stand the test of time production methods have started to catch up to designer’s dreams. Listen to Bill as he discusses his drawings compared to modern cars.

Do Not Enter

Traditionally in the automotive industry new car designs were always very secretive. It was very uncommon for even designers in the same company to see what another studio was doing before it was released. Bill shares some insight into that secretive world of automobile design and development.

Saving Art

As we have heard with so many other artists through this series, not through malicious intent, but art was never prized to be saved. More times than not studio drawers were dumped and drawings were tossed. Bill is one of the artists who were able to get their art out and share it with us today.

Being a Designer Now

There’s no denying the fact that the process of designing and manufacturing cars today is much different than when Bill worked for General Motors.  Hear Bill’s thoughts on the current state of automotive design.

  1. Glen Durmisevich

    Great video Bill. Always interesting to hear what inspired everyone to become a car designer and to see their artwork from the past. I know you fully understand the artistic qualities that each designer put into their renderings back then that is not quite the same with current computer sketches. Now I’ll see a bit of you in some of the cars at the shows. Thanks


    I am so glad you did this. I always saw Bill as an admirably modest and shy person, often in the company of a collection of extroverts!

    He has a lovely family and I remember fondly when he and his wife had the gallery in Rochester. It was truly an expression of his enthusiasm for cars of all kinds. I never had a chance to work with him, one of the people that unfortunately I missed. He makes many good points.

    Obviously he was one of the problem solvers, someone who in the end made things work. His enthusiasm for design still shines through his words, something when he was working that was much appreciated I am sure.

    Dick Ruzzin

  3. Edward Matula

    Another great interview with a automobile designer. Keep them coming.

  4. Bill,
    Congrat’s on your fine interview. ‘Was great to hear/see your insightful commentary about your noble career as an automotive designer/stylist at General Motors Design. Have always admired your skills on paper, be they sketches or color renderings, your creative art always reads well, conveying your fine understanding of form, line, shape, proportion and stance.
    Your designer friend,
    John M. Mellberg

  5. Loved your interview Bill,

    Enjoyed learning about your time at Pratt and their emphasis on form. It is apparent in your fine work. Amazed at the quality of your illustrations. Your comments about too many cars today was refreshing and spot on. Hoping to see you in August at Pebble.


  6. Jamie Grant

    I found a concept drawing going through a hundred paintings at an old antique store! Two partners owned the shop! I asked how much and he said $1500! I couldn’t afford that and came back a yr later and they had split up… The painting was still there, it was also my 40th bday and the other partner just gave it to me! In spite of his divorcè maybe haha….

  7. Clark Lincoln

    Excellent interviews, Bill. It’s nice to see someone who can talk about our profession in a dispassionate and down to earth manner. And not only remember dates and names of things long gone, but to have also managed to squirrel so many pieces of art out of the building! The industry needed designers like you, that could not only do exciting “concept” renderings, but definitive, working sketches that could actually be built. I think this has been a problem throughout our profession for years.

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