Stingray, 5′ x 16′, Collection of the Artist, 1996

Enter Peter Maier

Nobody I had ever encountered before could have possibly adequately prepared me for meeting Pete Maier. I worked with Pete for a year in 1976 when I was transferred into Cadillac Exterior Studio from Buick. He is immensely talented, outspoken, insightful, and pragmatic. I was aware of his fine art, but I had no realistic concept of the scale of his artwork, nor the totally unique process he has developed using Dupont waterborne automotive paints. Peter attended Pratt Institute, was a designer for General Motors, was interrupted with a tour of Vietnam courtesy of Uncle Sam, and eventually resigned his position at GM to pursue his fine art career. Part One talks briefly of his experiences at Pratt and GM, and his unique relationship with Dupont. There are several galleries of his artwork, and a video where Pete leads us on a personal tour of his studio gallery. Pete will explain the colossal scale and unique process of his paintings in Part Two. Plus more galleries.

Pratt Institute. Considered by the professors at Pratt Institute to be the most promising 3-D design student in the freshman class, Maier was chosen to be Robert Mallary’s assistant on his sculpture “Cliffhangers.“ Mallary was one of the pioneers in the “junk art movement“ of that time, and was represented by Allan Stone Gallery, as well as being professor of 3-D at Pratt. Mallary was commissioned by architect Phillip Johnson to create a piece for the New York State Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

Working in a 5th story loft at 463 Broome Street, in the area which would later become known in the art world as Soho, Maier worked with Mallary throughout the entire development of the sculpture, from the summer of 1963 to its completion and installation on the pavilion in the spring of 1964. Because of his close association with Mallary, Maier met with Phillip Johnson on numerous occasions, and was introduced to many of Mallary’s artist friend, including Chamberlain, Andy Warhol, Lichtenstein, and Elaine Dekooning.

General Motors Design. At the age of 20, Maier was one of the youngest designers ever hired by General Motors Design. After seeing Maier’s work at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Bill Mitchell offered Maier a position in Styling’s three-month summer program. Halfway through the program Maier was offered a full-time position as an automobile designer upon graduation. Offers were also made by Ford and Chrysler motor companies, but Maier’s heart remained with GM.

In 1966 Maier and a group of freshman designers were assigned to work out an extremely innovative concept for a three-wheeled vehicle.  Maier’s sketch was chosen and work began on a three-dimensional clay model in 1967. Chuck Jordan had a model of it on his desk at General Motors and kept it for many years.


Pete’s wild 3-wheeled design with two Pontiac OHC 6-cylinder engines.


Dupont. Pete considers the automobile to be one of the fine art works of the past and present century. It is one of the strongest cultural technological icons of our time, and has been the focus of many of his major works of art. Both culturally and historically the automobile has become a global icon.

Much of Pete’s career has been devoted to the automobile. After leaving GM in 1980, he wanted to paint the automobile as a true fine art subject in a full scale, life-size format using actual automotive paint. Utilizing the automobile as subject, Pete developed an innovative process and techniques with a new paint medium that no other artist has explored to date.

Pete’s association within the automotive industry led him to contact the Dupont paint division, when he became aware that they were developing a state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly, waterborne automotive paint. After approaching Dupont in 1991 and explaining what he had in mind in terms of using this paint as a fine art medium, Pete then met with two Dupont vice presidents. Both were reluctant, but quite intrigued with his concept. After seriously considering what he had in mind, he was given the entire set of experimental tint colors on a hand shake! This was highly unusual since Dupont had never before released any experimental product to anyone outside of the company since the company’s inception when Dupont first made gun powder for the American Revolutionary Forces.

Harley-Davidson. Although Maier has sold well over 400 paintings since 1980, he has only accepted one major commission. Maier’s concept for a painting commissioned by Harley-Davidson for the company’s 100th anniversary was to have two life-size motorcycles facing one another. The original 1903 facing a new 2003 Harley-Davidson.

The painting was unveiled at the 100th anniversary celebration in Milwaukee to an audience of more than 150,000 people. It was estimated that in the three day celebration well over 100,000 people took photos of the painting. This painting is 5 feet hight and 16 feet long.

The Making of Stingray.

A Gallery of Pete’s work. More in the next post.


There are a few posters available of Peter’s work.

Peter has posters available at a reasonable cost of three of his paintings—Stingray, Mako Shark, and the 100th Anniversary Harley Davidsion poster with paintings of 1903 and 2003 Harleys. If you’d like posters of his work, contact Dean’s Garage and I’ll forward your request to Pete.

  1. D.r.north

    Pete never stopped improving. Just when we think we have seen the best he goes way out!

  2. John Houlihan

    Pete is indeed a great designer. I was there in “Design Development” studio in the summer on 1966 when Pete designed that twin engined three wheeler. Davis Rossi was the sculptor and made a lot of us look good with his extraordinary skill. Chuck Jordan reveled in this design which housed two Pontiac OHC sixes. I guess those really were the days.


  3. Well, I meet up with Pete in Cadillac Studio. He designed the Cadillac Seville, (hump back).

    His sketch was hanging near the back door of the studio and Bill Mitchell was leaving the room and stopped to look at Pete’s sketch. He turned around and said to Wayne Kady/ chief designer of Cadillac Studio, “this is the next Seville”. Then Bill left the room. Bob Schmidt, a personal friend, now gone worked on the side of the full size clay model and did an excellent job sculpting the rear fender with the crease that ran down to the rear bumper. When we took the clay model out to the north patio at the end of the north end of the tech center, I put on the side molding. We were waiting for Mr. Kennard who was the general manager of Cadillac to view the car. When he finally arrived he was really agitated and angry. Someone had miscommunicated and sent him to the Proving grounds which was like fifty miles west of the tech center. He looked over the car and this became the Seville in the mid-1980’s. Another friend and designer who worked next to Pete, had a great sense of humor and called Mr. Kennard, Mr. Kennardly make a decision. Pete knows who he is and some of us who worked in Cadillac Studio know too. He was the designer of the next and last Seville that came out in the 1990’s. His name is Donald Hronek. We had several other designers but Pete and Don were the best and are still with us.

    This could go on and on with stories of Cadillac Studio but this should do it for today. goodbye. nh.

  4. Tom Semple

    My goodness, but I haven’t seen anything so beautiful or amazing as Pete’s current work. We worked together back at GM, drawing cars, drinking beer and all that, but I never realized how much my own feelings about automotive form were influenced by Pete’s three wheeler until just now. As a young designer, I didn’t know who designed the model, or that the legendary Dave Rossi was involved in sculpting it, but I was very taken with the simple beauty and strength of its form. Seeing it for the first time in 46 years, I still think the bodyside is absolutely beautiful, and if properly understood by the “deciders” could, by now, have advanced the course of design by 50 years or so. On a side note: those design bosses could have been fine people, I imagine, but a limbless Hellen Keller would have been a better designer than most of them.

    I wish Pete all the best in the world, he deserves it. He was always a stand-up guy from Brooklyn and I was proud to call him a friend.

    Tom Semple
    retired car designer

  5. David R.North

    Pat and I have been friends with Pete and Jan Maier for 50 years! Still hear from him about once a week, just spent Over a hour on phone with Pete. He has held shows in my son,s resort,had many of our friends Visit his home and studio. Meet Pete when 1st came to Design Staff and we worked on a Wild 3wheeler. It was the 60s and Pete went of to fight the War. When he returned,he had changed a lot. Was not sure He wanted to come back with us. Dave Stollery and I took Him to lunch and talked him into giving it a try. He did some Outstanding work, and then made a big leap into a fantastic New career.

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