An enormous amount of beautiful artwork was routinely thrown out.

The individual designer’s furniture at GM consisted of a wooden drawing table, a taboret, an uncomfortable broken chair, and a large wooden table with a large flat drawer for artwork. We also had an even larger drawer in the back room for storage. At the rate we went through paper, we accumulated a lot of artwork. A lot was pitched, but there were always renderings and drawings that were special whether it was appreciated by others or not. It was hard to throw that away. Often a designer would be transferred to a different studio and leave a drawer full of artwork. It would stay there for some time until the space was needed usually by another designer trying to find room for his own stuff. Then it was usually pitched.

But some was rescued. I’ll post the more interesting pieces that I have accumulated as I run across them. If other designers have artwork laying around that they’d like to share, please email scans of the artwork to me along with a caption. They need to be at 650 pixels across or larger.


Tony Balthasar was cleaning out his drawer one day when I was in Pontiac Two Studio, held up this rendering, and shouted, “anyone want this?” I still have it. It is dated 1957 and looks like a 1960 Olds proposal, signed MacAdam. Prismacolor pencil on black Canson with gauche highlights.

No time for oil paintings.

Most studio artwork created before the digital age were quick sketches and renderings created using temporary mediums such as markers and chalk on vellum. Marker ink never really dried, and as the vellum would yellow with age the ink would bleed. Eventually the art would self destruct. Kind of like planned obsolescence. Mediums that would last like gauche or Prismacolor pencil on Canson held up pretty well, but those techniques were out of vogue by the time I got to GM.


Unknown GM artist


A Gray Counts rendering.


These ad agency renderings were done by Charles Kemp.


Sketches by Jerry Hirschberg

  1. Ron Will

    I also have a stack of “rescued” art work that has slowly self destructed due to the nature of vellum and marker bleed. I think with the aid of Photoshop some of the best pieces of Art can be digitally restored and preserved even as the original art work continues to deteriorate.

    I think the historical importance of these pieces can at least saved for reproduction just as they are in this internet site.

    Lesson for Designers…don’t throw those old masterpieces away just because they have some damage. Modern digital techniques and a little patience can save them. Photograph or scan them now before they go the way of the Titanic.

  2. I agree 150% that these beautiful renderings have valueable and historical significance that definitely need to be preserved! Young designers in school should be able to have access to them. Not to mention us carnuts like self! I have always been in complete awe at the wonderful talent these women and men whose works of automotive art should never be discarded from the past, no matter when in time they were done.—Mark in Dallas

  3. Museum conservation services can provide restoration and stabilization to fragile works on paper. Paper can be de-acidified, vellum works can backed and edge bound to reduce tears. UV glass can minimize sun damage and fading to marker colors, reds are especially prone to fading. Keeping artwork from direct sun light or periodically putting the works in dark, dry storage helps. Conservation can be costly, in some more than the current market price of these treasures. As caretakers for the next generation it is more than worth it. -Robert Edwards, co-producer American Dreaming: Detroit Automotive Styling 1946-1973

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