Talk:Virgil Exner

From MoparWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

I am not sure who did the Exner page, but as there are a number of personal comments in the first person I do not want to edit it.

First, the 1947 Studebaker was finalized by Exner while doing work off hours for Studebaker under an agreement with engineering head Cole. Exner was still under the employ of Loewy at the time, by the way. Although Exner's son says otherwise, Loewy was given incorrect dimensions for the car - I have photos of the models presented to management for consideration and all are shorter and narrower than Exner's proposal. All were done to the same scale.

Exner's main contribution was the front end and the 6-passenger (Starlight) coupe. The basic sedan body was done before Exner began his project for Cole. Loewy wanted a more rounded, streamlined front end while Exner pushed for, and got, a blunt snoot. The 1950 front end was Loewy's work, not Exner's. Loewy set the tone with "Eet has to look like ze aeroplane", as one employee at the time put it.

When Loewy found out Exner was working for Studebaker in secret and developing the design behind his (Loewy's) back, Loewy fire Exner. Loewy's reaction is not in the least bit surprising. As Studebaker upper management was on Loewy's side, Loewy kept his contract and Exner left in 1949.

The comment about Loewy's attitude is uncalled for, to be quite blunt. It is normal for the head of styling to take all the credit. When discussing Ford and GM in the day, you hear about Gregoire, Walker, Earl and Mitchell. But never a word of anyone working for them. And for Exner to complain about it is the height of egotism. After all, during the time Exner was head of styling at Chrysler all credit went to Exner. He never mentioned anyone else for the help he received nor credited anyone else for any designs they did. Even today Mopar fans are surprised to learn the bulk of the designs done under Exner were not actually done by him.

Loewy had a knack for hiring great stylists. Besides Exner, Loewy had Gordon Buehrig working for him in the 1940's. Buehrig did the 1936 Cord, one of the most striking and influencial designs of the 1930's. Contrary to what Cadillac fans claim, the vaunted 1938 Cadillac 60 Special reeks of styling themes from the 1936 Cord - the coffin nose with horizonal bars, the 4-window sedan styling with extended trunk and no running boards.

Part of the reason stylists left Loewy, besides going on to better positions, was the lack of work. Loewy lost the Studebaker contract in 1955 so naturally the auto stylists would not be needed. Loewy did some work for Rootes of England at that time, which is why the 1957 Hillman Minx looks like a shrunken 1953 Studebaker and the Humber Super Snipe looks like the rejected proposal for the 1956 Studebaker. Also, turnover is higher at smaller firms than at the Big Three. Nash, Hudson, Kaiser, Packard, and Studebaker (after 1955) all had high turnover of stylists. The most common reason was to move onto to Big Three where there was more job security and more work due to the Big Three building more car lines.

Loewy was hired by Studebaker to do the Avanti (note the spelling). Loewy and two others literally locked themselves into a house in Arizona to complete the job. Photos of the 1963 Avanti taken outside a home were shot at that locale in Arizona.

This is not to knock the work of Exner or his importance to Studebaker or Chrysler, but to set the record straight. Both Loewy and Exner should be recognized for the work they did and the influence both had on the styling of American automobiles. The Studebakers of 1947, 1953 and 1963 influenced styles for years. And in the case of the 1947 models, gave industry stylists comfort they would have jobs. The 1947 Kaiser, which was shown to the public before the Studebaker, were bland slab sided box on two boxes styling efforts. The 1947 Studebaker had flowing fender lines and sculpturing. The 1953 coupe's low belt line and roof can be seen in Exner's 1957 line, for example. And people are surprised to learn that low, sleek Avanti was built over forty years ago.


I did the majority of the story on the X-Man. While I was a very big fan of Virgil -- I am also a very big fan of Raymond Lowey. I have owned a pair of Studebaker Hawks for over 25 years now -- and loved the designs of the 50-51, 53-54, 62-64, and the Avantis. I've read quite a few books on both Studebaker and Raymond Lowey and am fascinated at how quick the Avainti came about (trying to save Studebaker) by locking all of the designers in a house in Florida.

I very appreciate your correct use of the Talk page for this article. What you had to say is an important footnote -- but maybe not relevant enough to be on the Mopar side of the X-Man's life at Mopar. I hope others will use these talk pages, especially when it comes to opinions over fact -- or side stories, in time corrections and additions can be gleened through these discussions.

Old Hippie