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Sixty8panther

T1GHT WH!P$ TROPHY TRIVIA

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The race for the coveted Tight Whips Trivia Trophy continues.

Five questions down and 54 to go. 8)

Durring his long and impressive career this designer worked for several

US Automotive companies, some more obscure than others. Over the

course of a few decades he designed dozens of GM cars including a few

LaSalles, as well as cars for Mopar & FoMoCo, Packard, Cord, Stutz,

Auburn, Duesenberg & Dietrich Body Company. And that's an

incomplete list as he was also a freelance designer for years.

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No & no. This designer also invented & patented

the T-top style roof like the one that showed up

on the C3 Corvette and 2nd gen. F-bodys.

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GORDON BUEHRIG

This first Eyes on Design show (formerly Eyes on the Classics) paid tribute to automobile design of the past, present and future. It is therefore fitting that the first designer to receive our Lifetime Achievement Award is the man responsible for the styling of more automobiles that are revered and collected by classic car enthusiasts than any other designer.

The Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology and the Eyes on the Classics committee is proud to honor Gordon Miller Buehrig's vision and contributions to the art form of automobile design by presenting him with the Steuben Lifetime Achievement Award.

Buehrig, among the last of the great individual American car stylists, designed automobiles that make classic car lovers' eyes light up--such names as Duesenberg, Cord, Stutz, Auburn.

At the age of 24 he began developing sketches and then production drawings of what eventually became Detroit's rolling sculpture. Today, more than 60 years later, he continues to create clay models and drawings with the clean lines and pure beauty that epitomize classic automobiles.

Buehrig considers himself an automobile architect and sculptor rather than a technologist and engineer. Throughout his career, he chose opportunities to create individual new designs over those which offered financial security and career advancements.

Born in Mason City, Illinois on July 18, 1904, Buehrig has had a lifelong passion for cars. While in high school, he tried to create a speedster body for a 1904 Orient Buckboard by covering the car's wooden framework with canvas.

Buehrig's first design job was in November 1924 as a 40 cents per hour apprentice with the Gotfredson Body Company in Wayne, Michigan. There he learned about composite bodies, working as detailer and running the blueprint machine. In January 1926, he began earning more money at a new job as a draftsman with Dietrich Body Company. He quit that August, driving to California with his brother, in hopes of working for Walter Murphy. This was not to be. Buehrig returned to Detroit, in December 1926, worked for the Edward G. Budd Company and was laid off.

He soon found a job at Packard. There he split his time working as a detailer and as a full-size body draftsman, earning $200 a month.

In 1927, he took a $30-a-month cut in pay to become one of the first designers at General Motors' Art and Color Section, under the direction of Harley Earl. He immediately went to work designing the instrument panel of the 1929 "pregnant Buick."

Buehrig bought his first car in 1928 while at General Motors--a 1929 Buick roadster and soon found that making $80-a-month payments on the car left him very little to live on. Afraid to approach Mr. Earl for a pay raise, he interviewed with Stutz, and at age 24, was hired as the auto company's chief body designer.

He left General Motors on November 28, 1928. That week, Buehrig drove his Buick to New York for the Auto Salon, where, in the lobby of the Hotel Commodore, he spied the Model J Duesenberg. Buehrig says he never dreamed that he would soon be chief designer.

He joined Stutz in Indianapolis on December 10, 1928. While there, he designed the boat-tailed bodies for the three Stutz 1929 Le Mans entries. These were the first Buehrig-designed bodies built by Weymann American Body Company of Indianapolis. They later produced a number of Buehrig's Duesenberg designs. Buehrig's only design which reached production at Stutz was the rework of the cowl and windshield on roadster and phaeton models LeBaron created.

In 1925, young American men would have done most anything to get close to the American dream machines--the Duesenbergs. A meeting with Duesenberg sales manager Harold T. Ames led Buehrig to the ultimate dream for a designer becoming chief designer for the fastest, most prestigious and luxurious motor car in the country.

"The best fringe benefit of working for Duesenberg was being allowed to drive all the cars . . . I used to drive all night, with the top down, the moon up . . . just drive," Buehrig says today.

Buehrig's first challenge was to design more exclusive bodies for Duesenberg patrons. Three days after joining Duesenberg, Buehrig made a tour of the coach-builders facilities. Working with the sales department at Duesenberg, he prepared side view drawings of proposed designs which were presented to customers. When an order came in, Buehrig drew an eighth-scale body draft which was turned over to the selected coachbuilder to produce.

The first Buehrig-designed Duesenberg was a close-coupled coupe on a short wheelbase chassis. It was built by Judkins, as was his second design, a five-passenger coupe. The first popular Duesenberg, the Beverly Sedan, was built by Murphy and Rollston.

Buehrig's favorite "Doozie" was the Derham Tourster, a show car finished in goldenrod yellow with pale green fenders. Displayed at the Drake Hotel Salon and later at Los Angeles, it was purchased by actor Gary Cooper. Buehrig's next-favorite model and the only car he designed to a customer's specific wishes, was the Brunn Torpedo Phaeton built for Marc Lawrence. Considered by many to be the most elegant open Duesenberg, it became one of the first Model SJ's. The model was converted into the super-charged version in the summer of 1932, and reproduced in four more bodies by Weymann and A. H. Walter.

Working at Duesenberg did not mean Buehrig could afford to own one, so he designed a car for himself on a Model A Ford chassis--he lowered the top, transformed it into a convertible victoria and regained headroom by dropping the seats through the floorboards.

Buehrig left Duesenberg in 1932 as luxury car sales, which had been slowing even before the Depression, continued to lag. In the fall of 1932, Howard O'Leary, Harvey Earl's assistant at General Motors, invited Buehrig to rejoin the Art and Color Section at GM, which he did in February 1933.

At GM, the germ of the idea which became Buehrig's masterpiece--the 810 Cord--evolved. Buehrig, who liked clean engine compartments, wanted to seal the hood and use external radiators. That was the theme for his team's entry in an in-house GM design contest. While the idea did not win, it stayed with Buehrig.

Buehrig rejoined Duesenberg in the fall of 1933 to work again for Ames, who by this time was company president. Ames liked the marketing strategy for the revised La Salle, introduced in the fall of 1933. It was an inexpensive version using off-the-shelf parts from a higher priced production car, the Oldsmobile, while retaining the prestige of the La Salle name. Ames wanted to make and market a Duesenberg made from Auburn parts, and he wanted Buehrig to design the car.

On November 7, 1933, Buehrig drew two small pencil sketches of a stream-lined sedan, his idea for the baby Duesenberg, with sealed hood and external radiators. A prototype was started on an experimental chassis designed by August Duesenberg. The car, completed in the spring of 1934, was a clear reflection of Buehrig's sketches. But by this time Ames had more pressing problems. He took Buehrig off the project to provide a fast facelift to the 1935 Auburn line. During a fourth of July weekend, Buehrig and Ames reworked the Auburn design--straightening the belt line, changing fender dies, creating new hood louvers, smaller and better headlights and a new radiator.

Buehrig also designed the boat-tail 851/852 Auburn speedster, revered by car collectors today, using some of the 100 1933 Auburn speedster bodies which were unused at the Union City Body Company.

In the meantime, the baby Duesenberg had been transformed and was reintroduced as a front-wheel-drive Cord. Buehrig led a small group of designers, including Dale Cosper, Dick Robertson, Vince Gardener and Paul Lorenzen, to develop a quarter-scale model. The late Bart Cotter, then assistant chief body draftsman and later head of Fisher Body Engineering, "eye- balled" the full-size body drawings from a series of 10-inch sections. Tooling was started and most of the body dies were completed by late 1934. The result would be the Cord 810 whose bold and innovative styling would capture and hold the interest of classic car enthusiasts.

At about that time, Buehrig married Betty Whitten. When he returned from his honeymoon, he found the project halted, with talk about alternate programs with less expensive tooling. The Cord was saved through the efforts of Roy Falkner, president of Auburn, who sold the project to the company's board of directors with a set of photographs of the clay model. Buehrig and Cosper had taken and processed the photos during a frantic all-night session and rushed them to Chicago in time for the meeting.

The next challenge was to complete the required 100 production models in less than five months to show the car at the New York Auto Show. Auburn employees finished 100 hand-assembled cars by show time, but the transmissions were not completed and the cars could not be demonstrated. The Cord was the hit of the show and orders poured in. But it was six months before they could be filled and marketing of the car suffered, Buehrig reminisces.

Buehrig's small staff translated the basic four-door Cord design into a three-passenger convertible coupe and a five-passenger car billed as a "convertible phaeton sedan." The latter was actually a convertible victoria with rear quarter windows, a pioneer to the modern convertible style, The quarter window of the Cord Phaeton was solidly attached to the main bow and could not be opened when the top was up; it rotated to the down position as the top was folded.

The 812 Cords of 1937 included supercharged models which required new hood inset panels to accommodate the chromed external exhaust headers. Buehrig's design team also created a stretched-out sedan on a 132-inch wheelbase which was offered in two trim series--the Custom Berline and the Custom Beverly.

After serving as director of the design department at Auburn Automobile Company for slightly less than three years, Buehrig left the company in September 1936. A month later, he joined the Budd Company in the same capacity, where he concentrated on speculative prototype design. He stayed at Budd for almost two years, leaving to free-lance as a designer.

The next decade was a frustrating time for the designer who had carved a niche in auto design history with his creations of Auburns, Cords and Duesenbergs. The market for luxury cars was very small and auto design influence was concentrated at Ford, Chrysler and General Motors.

Immediately after the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, Buehrig became involved in aircraft component design, to which he brought his knowledge and expertise in surface development. At the end of the war, he worked briefly in the design department at Studebaker under Raymond Loewy, but was soon a free-lancer again, and even took a sales job as a manufacturer's representative.

By 1948, Buehrig wondered if he would ever get back to what he loved best, auto design. He did, with Ford Motor Company. In 1949, Buehrig went to work for Ford's John Oswald, then head of body engineering and styIing, as head of the body development studio. One of five studios at Ford Styling, this group was responsible for creating station wagons and convertibles from standard sedan bodies designed in the other studios. Buehrig's first assignment was the car which became the 1951 Ford hardtop.

Ford management asked the body development studio to create an all-metal station wagon patterned after the wood-paneled models in production. Buehrig's group did so, simultaneously proposing a wagon which did not copy-cat the "woodie." With sedan doors and other production panels, it cost $200 less to produce. Introduced in 1952, the Ranchwagon boosted Ford's annual station wagon sales from 7,000 to 140,000 units.

In 1952, Buehrig was named chief body designer for the Continental Mark II project and served in that position until 1957, when he became head of station wagon planning. Buehrig became interested in light cars and participated in the initial effort from which the Falcon became a reality.

From 1959 until retiring from Ford in July 1965, Buehrig was a principal design engineer in the materials applications group. He worked on special projects with an emphasis on exploring plastic body and chassis components. A vocal proponent of the use of plastics in automobiles, Buehrig continues to spread this gospel today to young designers around the U.S. and the world.

Buehrig's indelible mark on the automobile design world assures his place in automobile history. But fame, money and security have never meant as much to him as the challenge to design automobiles that are beautiful and functional.

The wealth of ideas, knowledge and expertise he has accumulated in his 60 years as a design genius keeps Buehrig busy today at his studio and garage in Grosse Pointe, where he lives with his second wife, Kay.

On a recent visit he showed final production drawings of one of his favorite design themes, a spacious, aerodynamically-styled wagon, with two small engines and a special driveline configuration to provide plenty of room for the low-seat passenger compartment. In Buehrig's garage are a Honda CRX coupe with automatic transmission along with a 1951 Ford Victoria hardtop coupe he designed, and a 1971 Corvette with T-roof, a special configuration which he created and patented after World War II.

"The mark of the really exceptional car designer is the degree to which his creations are coveted and revered long after they were built. Many of Gordon Buehrig's cars are in this class-true collector items. They were considered classic cars when introduced, and the feeling about them, the sense of distinction and value, has increased with the passage of time," wrote former American Motors Vice President for Styling, Richard A. Teaque in a prologue to a volume of Buehrig's work, "Rolling Sculpture".

Eyes on the Classics is proud to have many of Buehrig's classics, including the 810 Cord and the 1951 Ford hard top, displayed today.

The growing popularity of classic cars has led to the reproduction of many of Buehrig's greatest designs. The 810 Cord Roadster and 866 Auburn speedster are replicas of his originals. In 1979, business leader and classic car collector Richard Kughn launched the Buehrig, a replica sports car. One of the three prototype Buehrig's is displayed today.

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We've got a winner! :)

You'd think in his golden years he would have had a Duesenberg or

a Stutz of some sort since he desinged for them... the automatic

CRX kind of threw me. Still what a great & influencial individual.

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