The Career of Phillip E. Payne

Payne’s career in automotive styling began in 1960 upon graduation from the Cleveland Institute of Art with job offers from GM and Ford. He chose Ford, in large part because of an internship there in 1959.

He stayed at Ford (just weeks shy of his 21st anniversary) until he received an interesting job offer from the AMC Board of Directors placing him as executive in charge of their Soft Trim Interior Design Studio and their Trim and Color Studio. After five years he was moved to head up the passenger car interior and exterior studios.


When Chrysler purchased AMC, Payne was put in charge of Dodge Truck Exterior Design. Following the introduction of the wildly popular ’94 Dodge Ram Pick-up, he moved on to Chrysler International, and later retired in 2000. Shortly thereafter he was called back to Chrysler and returned to China in late 2000 (and again in 2001) to direct design efforts on Beijing Jeep products.

Programs of Payne’s involvement are: 1965 Mustang, 1966 and ’67 Lincoln; 1967 Mercury; interior design and space planning for several floors of the Ford Tower at Detroit’s Renaissance Center (now GM’s headquarters); a private suite at the Waldorf-Astoria, NYC, for Mr. Henry Ford II; Ford’s Nashville Glass Plant Lobby and Offices (Payne is a member of ASID); 1983 Ford Topaz; 1983 Renault Alliance and ’84 Encore interiors; 1984 Jeep XJ interior and  Jeep Wrangler; and the planned facelift for the 1991 Renault Premier. At Chrysler he worked on Dodge trucks, including the replacement for the D600 Medium Duty Truck in Mexico and Latin America, which outstripped previous production. Other international work included Beijing Jeep products and Chrysler/Mitsubishi vehicles.

Text and Artwork Scans provided by Phillip Payne.

  1. Tony Miller

    Phil has a beautiful, clean drawing style. The black Lincoln coupe, particularly, is an elegant design; they should have built that one.

  2. Clark LIncoln

    I agree with what Tony Miller says above – Phil Payne worked much as I tried to – to illustrate design concepts clearly and realistically, and that they would be tastefully appropriate. Thanks for posting this review of a very talented designer that I was unaware of.

  3. Walter Gomez

    The Lincoln coupe was built from 1966 through 1969 in this body style. The roof line and quarter windows were changed slightly in 1968. It appears that this was done so that the quarter window could be also be used in both the 1967 through 1971 Thunderbird coupes and 1969 through 1971 Continental Mark III coupe.

  4. Phillip E. Payne

    Mr. Gomez makes an interesting assumption but that was not the case. My assignment was to come up with an attractive 2 door Lincoln. The body we had pretty well completed but the greenhouse was still open territory for design. The “touch down points” (common meeting places for parts shared or otherwise) was not the same for the Thunderbirds, as I recall, so no intent for shared parts there. Maybe Mr. Gomez is on to something we should have considered.

  5. Norbert Ostrowski

    Happy to see the talent is still going strong. Best wishes and good health. Norbert Ostrowski

  6. Matthew Haase

    Thanks, Phillip, for the best-looking pickup truck ever designed!

  7. Phillip E. Payne

    Dear Matthew,
    You are most kind, but no one ever designs something all by himself or herself. I had a great crew. We had fun designing the new “Goat” as we called them. The code name, for the ’94 Dodge Ram pick-up, was T300 which appears on a couple of my sketches.

  8. James O'Flaherty

    ……”You are most kind, but no one ever designs something all by himself or herself. I had a great crew.”
    Still, it’s always made easier for that crew when the original concept drawings can be clearly understood. These are drawings that could put a modeling crew well on their way well before a tape drawing was completed.

  9. Phillip E. Payne

    Dear Jim,

    I remember you from our days at AMC. You were a fine modeler and your departure a loss for the team. Thanks for your kind comments. I tried to make things as easy for the talented modeling team and they reciprocated by often saving my backside.

  10. Ken

    I know the guy who actually come up with the New body style for the Dodge Ram that was produced for 94. This Guy was sitting in a Bar in Columbus Ga, talking to a business man with a brief case sitting in the bar.
    He and this so called business man somehow got on the subject of trucks in particular “Dodge”.
    This guy sitting at the bar told this business man, “I will tell what my idea of a good looking truck is”
    So he preceded to tell this business man to take the look of a Mack Truck and combine it with a pick up truck. Smooth down the corners where the headlights go. Give it that Beefy Grill Look. This guy said now that would be a truck worth paying 20,000.00 for.
    The business man asked this guy if he could draw it on a napkin.
    I remeber the guy saying, well Im a little buzzed but yeah, I will give it a shot. So he drew a quick drawing and it actually looked pretty decent. The business man asked him if he could keep the drawing. The guy looked at him and laughed a little and said sure, I guess. He thought it was a little weird wondering what was he going to do with that. Never really put no more thought into it. He did tell his wife about it. His wife fussed at him and told him to keep his ideas to himself. Then Low and behold he seen his truck that he drew hit the streets in 1994. He hates himself now! Just sayin! Thank You would have been nice. This happened around end 91-92. Dont remeber exact time frame just rember the conversation they were having.
    He figures GOD will make things right one day.

  11. Scott Brown

    First time visitor.. Very impressed by the work that you do and continue to provide to associates and friends.

    Best regards,

  12. Ken,

    Thank you, Ken, for your “enlightening” but completely erroneous commentary about, “the guy who actually came up with the New Body style for the Dodge Ram that was produced in 1994.”

    I’m sure, by the time this person was making his false claims we, at Chrysler, were way down the road past any “ideas” he may have wanted to claim.

    “Every good idea has a thousand parents and every bad idea is an orphan.” It surely applies in this case.

    The designs were all ours and nothing came from anyone outside the studio walls – despite any claims otherwise.

    The U.S. Patent Office is extremely thorough in investigating each patent application to make sure it is worthy of a patent and the person(s) applying are the true creators. My name is on the patent, not whomever you may want to claim.

    Bumped into a guy in a car model store in Saugatuck, MI, some years ago, who told me he was the styling designer that did the ’65 Mustang. Upon asking him some leading questions, and was unable to reply, he inquired how I knew so much about that project. His face turned beet red when another designer, who was with me, said, “Because the guy you are lying to was one of the team who styled the ’65 Mustang!” The guy could not get out of the store fast enough.

    I’m sure the other designers, listed here in Dean’s Garage, have endured hearing claims for credit of things they have done by those who were never involved.

    Such is life, Ken, and no, you really don’t know “who actually came up with the body style for the ’94 Dodge Ram” if you still believe that guy.

    Thanks for giving me a good grin.

  13. Hi Scott,

    Thank you for the kind words.

  14. Ron Wilson

    When discussing the 94 Ram,proper mention to the other designers involved in that project should be brought to light if I may. Clyde Ney was the principal designer on that great front end and body side and Joe Papai on the back end. Bob Nixon was Chief of truck design.

  15. Ron,
    You are mostly correct, and lack of mentioning them was no slight intended. The articles about the designers, modelers, etc., in Dean’s Garage, are about that person’s history and examples thereof not about all the people he or she worked with.

    Clyde Ney was a great spark plug for the design. Joe Papai contributed as well. When filling out the patent application I made sure their names were included, as was Trevor Creed’s who supported fully the direction I took for the design. Bob Nixon was there but his attention was focused on the Jeep Grand Cherokee so his name could not be included on the patent – per our “front design offices.”

    If you go back to my note, herein, of February 8, 2015, you see where I make sure readers understand I didn’t do it alone. We had a great team, including you as one of the clay modelers on that program. We caught everyone else off-guard, didn’t we.

    You and I, and the other studio team members can all attest to the fact that no one outside our studio “actually came up with the New body style for the Dodge Ram pick-up.”

    Glad you brought some of the other names to attention.


  16. Levi

    Phillip E. Payne Id like to thank you for making one of the best designed trucks of all time. Its timeless, agressive, and gorgeous. the 2nd generation dodge ram of course. I read somewhere that the inspiration came from the old studebaker trucks and the looks of the Semi trucks which definitely makes sense now that I compare. Would you mind giving me a glimpse in your thought proccess and what you do before you dive in and start sketching/designing with or without references?, thanks a bunch and if you have any concept sketches or stuff related to the 90s dodge ram pickups id love to see them, anyways take care.

  17. Dear Levi,

    My response to your email address, shown in your note, was returned to me last summer as it is listed as a “non-existing” email address.

    Here’s another try…..

    Your comments about an old Studebaker pick-up being one of the reference points is correct. It was a ’52. Several 18 wheeler truck cabs also had their photos put on our reference boards. We filled some “black boards”, styling studio term for the large rolling boards that oft times held full-size renderings of car/trucks, with photos of where we wanted to go.

    Before diving into replacing a product, i.e., in this case the Dodge pick-up) we took a long look at competitor’s pick-ups and also tried to analyze where we thought they were going. One thing stood out to us: THEY ALL LOOKED LIKE FLAT SEDANS! No sexy curves to the surfaces of the body and not enough aggression to the “face” (front end, i.e., grille, etc.) that other truckers would see.

    Clyde Ney and I (mostly Clyde) did a Dakota size show truck that was all of what we wanted with regard to sexy curves and an aggressive “face.” It was a success, but Iaccoca had us pull it from the Detroit Auto Show just before opening as he felt it tipped our hand on what we were doing with the upcoming Dodge Ram. On hind sight, Iaccoca was correct in recognizing that.

    Previously, we did a “clinic” in Fort Worth, TX on our clay models. The design was nearly jelled, but we needed input from pick-up owners. What better place than Texas?!

    One young lady only owned pick ups, never a car. She was all of 5 feet tall and fell in love with our models. We had a Chevrolet, GMC, Ford, and one of our then current Dodge production models in the clinic. Some of the truck owners, who preferred our designs, even said they’d sell their kids to get there hands on trucks like that. Our models won by taking 15% of the votes.

    Talking with the director of Chrysler Truck Product Planning, Joe Caddell, one of us said 15% just doubled our market share! Dodge pick-ups were only getting 7.5% at the time. We said this, not Bob Lutz as he later claimed – and he wasn’t even there!

    Hope this answers your questions.

  18. John

    I’m amazed looking at the 68 Lincoln drawing. You were designing low profile tires with big wheels 50 years before their time.

  19. John,

    Thanks for the comment about low profile tires and large wheels. However, I think most designers wanted them and it showed in a lot of sketches no matter what company they were working for.


  20. Hey Phil,

    Check out the 2023 Cadillac Celestiq EV… Kinda looks like something you would have designed.. You were ahead of your time..!!! 🙂

  21. The 2 painted clay models came back to the studio ready to be shipped to the Texas clinic and our design chief Bob Nixon gathered everyone from the studio around the models. He then asked everyone to stand by their favorite. I went to the one that i had been involved in modeling the front end. The principle designer,Clyde Ney who was principle on both models stood next to me. Everyone else went to the other model! The model Clyde and I picked won the clinic and was approved for production!

  22. Drew Beaudry

    Hey Phillip,

    Hope all is well, beautiful design on the 2nd gen dodge pickups. When I turned 17 years old, I immediately went out and bought a nice 1998 Ram 1500. I have had it for around 7 years now, Intend on keeping it as long as I can with 202,000 miles on it. I still tell people from time to time that the design of these trucks will simply never be topped. You truly accomplished something great with its design, seeing that it’s 2021 and I still cant find a vehicle that looks better. Thanks to the work of you and your brilliant crew, an excellent hobby and many great relationships have been kindled between me, my father and my wife when we work on the truck or drive around in it, I really love it.

    Hope all is well, and most of all, Thank you.

    Drew Beaudry

  23. Jonathan

    Dear Phillip,

    Hope everything goes well! It is amazing the beautiful design for Chinese off road vehicle BJ2022. I am very interested in the model. Could you please share more picutures/drawing/material on the vehicle? (hope you could find my mail address)
    Thanks a lot!


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