Alphabetical Index|A|B|C|D|E|F|G|H|I|J|K|L|M|N|O|P|Q|R|S|T|U|V|W|X|Y|Z


quicklinks|buses|cars|customs|designers|fire apparatus|limos|pro-cars|taxis|trailers|trucks|woodies

Creative Industries
Creative Industries of Detroit Inc., 1950-1991; Detroit, Michigan; Creative Industries Group (CIG), Masco Industries, 1991-1993; Automotive Systems Group, MascoTech Inc. 1993-1999; Auburn Hills, Michigan; MSX International, 1999-present; Warren, Michigan; Hydro Manufacturing Co., 1937- 1985; Detroit Industrial Engineering (D.I.E.) 1941-1991; Detroit, Michigan
Associated Firms
Progressive Welder Co., D.I.E., Ionia Mfg., Mitchell-Bentley

Because of the secretive nature of their business, Creative Industries was not a well-publicized business and very few of the thousands of projects pursued by the firm since 1950 have been written about. However it’s safe to say they had a hand in the early development of fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) automobile bodies and played a significant role in the development of a great many of Detroit’s dream cars during the 1950s and 60s. Today they’re mainly remembered as the firm that supplied the aerodynamic components for Chrysler Corporation’s legendary ‘Winged Warriors’.

Creative Industries of Detroit Inc. was founded by Danish immigrant, Frederick H. Johnson (b. 1896-d.1954).

Fred(erick) Hjalmar Johansen (Johnson) was born on May 3, 1896 in Ørbæk (Orback), Funen Island, Denmark to Jorgen and Sofie (Anderson) Johansen. (Funen is best known as the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen) After completing his early education in the local Danish schools, sixteen year-old Johansen travelled to Antwerp, Belgium* where he embarked on a steamship sailing for the United States.

*(Antwerp Police Dept. immigration record - surname still Johansen)

Upon his entry to the United States his surname was 'Americanized' to Johnson and by 1913 he had made his way to Detroit, where he attended evening classes in tool design at Cass Technical High School, while working as an apprentice machinist and toolmaker. In 1919 he joined one of the Chrysler's antecedents (Maxwell or Chalmers) and for the next 16 years worked for Chrysler as a tool specialist serving that firm in various capacities, both in the US and abroad.

While at Chrysler he helped develop an automatic multiple-point welding system, receiving US Patent Nos. 2033851 and 2062849 (1933 and 1934), which helped them speed up the assembly of steel automobile components. In later years he was awarded a large number of welding-related patents, both individually and in conjunction with employees (US Patent Nos. 2118648; 2234436; 2250302; and 2446932).

In 1935, Johnson left Chrysler and founded Progressive Welder Co. (3050 E. Outer St., Detroit, Mich.) where he pioneered the development of portable hydraulic welding guns which used a novel air-hydraulic booster of his own design.

A 1941 listing in Aerosphere magazine provide the following information:

"PROGRESSIVE WELDER CO. 3050 E. Outer Drive, Detroit. Mich. Personnel: Fred Johnson, pres.; William Martin, sec.-treas.; L.M. Benken, gen. mgr.; A.B. Hard, adv. mgr. Products: Air operated and hydraulic punching and welding equipment."

As Progressive Welder prospered five additional plants were opened in the state of Michigan, as well as a Canadian branch, Progressive Welder Canada, Ltd., which was established in Chatham, Ontario, in 1949. A sales division, Progressive Welder Sales Co. was organized in 1951 to handle the firm's ever-increasing international and domestic sales. Johnson was president of these two subsidiaries, and vice-president of Hydro Manufacturing Co., a Detroit-based producer of automobile stampings founded in 1937.

Between 1935 and 1954 Progressive Welding grew from a 12-person shop to a 400+ employee firm with annual sales of over $6 million (1954). By that time the company's products were diversified among resistance welding machinery and equipment, punching and piercing machinery, jigs, tools and dies, and systems for dealing with both ferrous and non-ferrous metal.

Today, Johnson is best remembered as the inventor of the automatic, multiple point welding machine. The firm developed a self-contained field repair cart for repair spot welding of steel parts of airplanes during the Second World War, and were pioneers in the development of aluminum welding machines, an innovation that proved vitally important in the development of lightweight aluminum airframes During the two decades he served as president of the firm it (and its associated firms - Progressive Welder Sales Co., & Progressive Welder & Machine Co.) was awarded 30 US Patents as follows:

US Pat. 2341458 - Filed Mar 13, 1939 - Issued Feb 8, 1944
US Pat. 2280262 - Filed Dec 12, 1940 - Issued Apr 21, 1942
US Pat. 2287945 - Filed Mar 6, 1940 - Issued Jun 30, 1942
US Pat. 2296286 - Filed Dec 13, 1940 - Issued Sep 22, 1942
US Pat. 2329122 - Filed Jan 17, 1941 - Issued Sep 7, 1943
US Pat. 2304121 - Filed Dec 13, 1940 - Issued Dec 8, 1942
US Pat. 2314320 - Filed Jul 7, 1941 - Issued Mar 16, 1943
US Pat. 2347695 - Filed Feb 25, 1942 - Issued May 2, 1944
US Pat. 2353847 - Filed Aug 2, 1940 - Issued Jul 18, 1944
US Pat. 2354190 - Filed Mar 21, 1942 - Issued Jul 25, 1944
US Pat. 2356859 - Filed Feb 27, 1941 - Issued Aug 29, 1944
US Pat. 2359324 - Filed Jul 14, 1942 - Issued Oct 3, 1944
US Pat. 2363536 - Filed Apr 24, 1942 - Issued Nov 28, 1944
US Pat. 2371185 - Filed Dec 13, 1940 - Issued Mar 13, 1945
US Pat. 2372117 - Filed Jan 2, 1943 - Issued Mar 20, 1945
US Pat. 2372211 - Filed May 11, 1942 - Issued Mar 27, 1945
US Pat. 2413783 - Filed Nov 26, 1942 - Issued Jan 7, 1947
US Pat. 2422999 - Filed Apr 27, 1945 - Issued Jun 24, 1947
US Pat. 2429186 - Filed Apr 3, 1943 - Issued Oct 14, 1947
US Pat. 2446932 - Filed Mar 27, 1943 - Issued Aug 10, 1948
US Pat. 2452573 - Filed Mar 22, 1943 - Issued Nov 2, 1948
US Pat. 2458758 - Filed Nov 6, 1944 - Issued Jan 11, 1949
US Pat. 2464981 - Filed Jun 15, 1942 - Issued Mar 22, 1949
US Pat. 2481844 - Filed Nov 18, 1946 - Issued Sep 13, 1949
US Pat. 2483054 - Filed Mar 22, 1943 - Issued Sep 27, 1949
US Pat. 2543502 - Filed Feb 26, 1945 - Issued Feb 27, 1951
US Pat. 2560283 - Filed Nov 15, 1946 - Issued Jul 10, 1951
US Pat. 2658523 - Filed Oct 11, 1948 - Issued Nov 10, 1953
US Pat. 2779092 - Filed Dec 26, 1951 - Issued Jan 29, 1957
US Pat. 2835721 - Filed May 27, 1954 - Issued May 20, 1958

Johnson also patented a motorcycle 'power cycle' US Pat. D159154 - Filed Jul 23, 1949 - Issued Jun 27, 1950.

In 1950 Johnson formed Creative Industries of Detroit, a holding company which held a controlling interest in his various manufacturing and engineering operations.

Rex A. Terry, a former Chrysler Corp. body engineer was hired in 1952 to assist him in its operation and following Johnson's sudden passing in 1954 at the age of 58, Rex A. Terry (1911-1987) became president, his share in the firm amounting to approximately 10% - the remainder owned by the Johnson family. Terry was the logical chief since no one in the family was able to run it.

Rex A Terry was born in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan in 1911 to William A. and Wealthy Terry. After a public education he embarked upon a course of engineering, and following graduation found employment with the Chrysler Corporation, and by 1945 had become assistant chief engineer in charge of body design with Chrysler's Commercial Car division.

His biography in a 1950 issue of the SAE Journal (Vol. 58, pt 1) follows:

"Rex A. Terry Vice-President, Body Activity Rex A. Terry has devoted his working life so far to body engineering. He is now Assistant Chief Engineer, in charge of body design, of Chrysler Corporation's commercial car division. He has put much of his spare time into studying aerodynamics, body construction, and business management and into SAE activities. Terry is a member of the SAE Passenger Car Body Technical Committee and, for two years, has been chairman of the Body Activity Meetings Committee. In Detroit Section, he has served as Vice-Chairman representing the Body Activity."

A 1952 issue of Automotive Industries announced Terry's appointment as general manager of Creative:

"Rex A. Terry has been appointed general manager of Creative Industries of Detroit. For the past 17 years, Terry has been associated with Chrysler Corp. in the commercial car engineering division, serving in various capacities from designer to assistant chief engineer of the division in charge of body design."

In 1949 classic-era auto designer Ray Dietrich opened up a small design and fabrication firm of his own in Grand Rapids, Michigan, called Raymond Dietrich Inc. One of his first customers was the Ford Motor Co. who commissioned him to design and build a new limousine for President Harry S Truman. Based on a 1950 Lincoln Cosmopolitan, the 4-door convertible had a 145” wheelbase, and weighed just over 6,000 lbs. Powered by a 337 cu in Lincoln V8, the 20 feet long car included retractable steps under the rear fenders, red flashers, a rear-mounted spare, and flag holders on the front bumper.

When President Eisenhower came into office, he requested that the car be fitted with a removable observation roof so he could wave to the crowds in rainy weather. As Dietrich had closed down his Grand Rapids shop, Ford farmed the work out to Creative who designed, fabricated and installed the domed Plexiglas bubble-top during 1953.

The revised limousine became known as ‘Ike’s Bubble-Top’. JFK used this car during his Inaugural Parade in 1961, and the car was retired later that year and replaced by the famous 1961 Lincoln X-100 limousine. The Truman car remained on the East Coast where it served as a Ford Motor Company's VIP car for a number of years. In 1967 it joined the Lincoln “Sunshine Special” at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan where it can be seen today. According to Theresa Sullivan-O'Neill, an employee of the museum, one door of the 1950 Lincoln fell off recently when a visitor reached over the barrier to open it for a better look.

Creative was a pioneer in the development of FRP (Fiberglas reinforced plastic) automobile bodies and in January 1958 Terry presented a paper entitled' "ENGINEERING DESIGN OF FIBER GLASS BODIES," to an SAE conference.

Donald R. Mitchell of Ionia Manufacturing/Mitchell-Bentley was reportedly a silent partner in Creative owning as much as 50% of the stock during the mid-to-late 50s. Rex A. Terry was a close friend of Mitchell’s and their two firms often collaborated on projects including the 1954 Packard Grey Wolf II/Panther showcars, the first Packards to employ a wrap-around windshield.

Designed by Dick Teague using a 3/8 scale model, the Panther’s one-piece fiberglass roadster bodies were fabricated by Creative Industries then shipped to Ionia for trimming and final assembly. The first Panther was completed in time for the 1954 Daytona Speed Week where its 131 mph performance induced Packard to rename the two completed concepts which toured the country as Panther-Daytonas.

Four Panthers were eventually built, two initially constructed for the 1954 show circuit, and two subsequent cars that were presented to Don R. Mitchell and Rex A. Terry with Packard's blessings for a job well done. Mitchell and Terry subsequently returned their Panthers to Creative for an update in which the existing taillights were removed and exchanged for 1955 Packard Patrician ‘Cathedral’-style units an operation that necessitated re-sculpting the rear-end and quarter panels.

Mitchell’s car, originally painted Danube Blue, was re-sprayed Corsican Black and Roman Copper, its current color scheme, and fitted with a one-piece removable hardtop roof with gold-plated script that read ‘Mitchell Panther’. The vehicle was fitted with three pairs of V-emblems just ahead of the tail lights on the rear quarter panels. The gold-plated V-emblems, Creative's Corporate insignia - were left over from the four pairs of single V-symbols originally intended to be fitted to the four Panthers - one set per car. Terry’s car was repainted an iridescent pearl over black and fitted with the fourth set of V-emblems, one on each side of the car - just underneath the 'Creative' script located on the rear quarters just ahead of the taillights. A matching 'Panther' script was fitted farther forward at the leading edge of the rear quarter panel.

While the 'Creative' script and V-emblems originally found on Terry's car were lost long ago, Mitchell's car retains all of its original emblems. In his 1984 Cormorant article, Leon Dixon relates that Rex A. Terry attempted to interest the factory in doing an updated version and took his Creative Panther over to the Packard factory to show it off. Although it was well received, the automaker claimed there was no money to update it or to introduce any new models.

Sometime later Mitchell's Panther was sold to Duesenberg collector Homer Fitterling who loaned it to the Studebaker National Museum until 1988 when it was acquired by Joseph Bortz of Highland Park, Illinois. The car was restored to running condition in 2006 and was recently offered for sale at R.M. Auction's 2009 Amelia Island collector car auction. A silver-painted Panther (one of the early cars with the original 1954 Clipper taillights) is currently on display at the Mitchell-Bentley headquarters in Owosso, Michigan. Rex A. Terry's Panther was displayed at the 2009 Fairfield County Concours d'Elegance (Westport, Conn.), and currently resides in the collection of Garwood, New Jersey Packard collector Ralph Marano, as does the second early Panther, whose last known color was salmon.

Another Creative Industries joint project was the 1954 Dodge Granada show car. Creative fabricated the fiberglass body panels and assembled the vehicle and Ionia furnished the trim and interior. According to the March 1954 issue of Popular Science, the Granada was the “…first car ever built on conventional chassis with a one-piece, all-plastic body, Granada even has bumpers, structural body members and body-attaching brackets of glass fibers. Car is 211 in. long.”

A third Creative-Packard project was the 1955 Packard Request show car which debuted at the 1955 Chicago Auto Show. Packard had received a number of requests to bring out an up-to-date version of their pre-war style grill and decided to placate the critics with their ‘Request’, hence the 1955 Request show car.

Designed by Dick Teague, the Request was built using a modified Four Hundred with a new front end treatment utilizing a classic-era Packard-style grill separated by two massive front bumpers. The vehicle’s hood and fenders were molded using reinforced Plaskon polyester resin, a product of the Barrett Division of Allied Chemical. In a 1978 interview with Leon Dixon, Creative’s Gary Hutchings recalled: "We had a heck of a time finding a place with tanks big enough to plate those huge front bumpers. We finally got 'em done over in Hamtramck (a Detroit suburb)."

A fourth Packard project was the 1956 Packard Predictor. Another Richard Teague design, the Predictor incorporated such advance features as a push button Ultramatic transmission, electric trunk, electric retractable rear window and a retractable roof that aided entry and egress and allowed for open-air cruising. While most retractable roofs are built using a fixed panel, Leon Dixon reports that the Predictor's more closely resembled the moveable cover of a roll-top desk.

The body was built by Carrozzeria Ghia in Turin, Italy, but when a wiring short caused the Predictor to ignite prior to its Detroit Auto Show debut, it was sent off to Creative where the car’s numerous electrical gremlins were sorted and the damage repaired.

The 1953 Lincoln XL 500 was Ford Motor Co.’s first FRP-bodied (fiberglass reinforced plastic) showcar, and they turned to Creative to fabricate the bodywork.  The XL500 featured steering wheel hub-mounted push button transmission controls and a built-in Telephone/Dictaphone. The car’s one-piece fiberglass body was topped off with a tinted glass roof that was bisected by a thick stainless steel band and was originally built without a drivetrain. with electrical features operated solely on battery power.

The 1954 Mercury Monterey XM 800, designed in the Mercury pre-production studio by John Najjar and Elwood Engle, debuted at the 1954 Detroit Auto Show. Benson Ford, Lincoln-Mercury Division manager, said:

“This is not a sports car, nor is it a dream car of the distant future. It has features of both, but is a readily producible automobile.”

The XM 800’s fiberglass body was built by Creative and featured a wrap-around windshield and a striking wide chrome band dividing the roof and the rear window. The XM 800 was featured in the 1954 20th Century Fox drama ‘Woman’s World’ where it starred as the Gifford, an automobile manufactured by Gifford Motors, a firm headed by Clifton Webb. The star-studded film also featured Lauren Bacall, Van Heflin, Cornel Wilde, Fred MacMurray and June Allyson.

Leon Dixon details that Creative not only built the original car, but did a complete revision of the vehicle (mainly the interior) to meet with Ford's 1956 safety promotion program.

Select boxes of Post Grape Nut Flakes included a plastic miniature of the XM 800 and the recently restored vehicle was reunited with its designer John Najjar at the 2009 Meadowbrook Concours d'Elegance.

One of the most futuristic Ford dream cars was the 1954 Atmos FX, an aero-inspired ‘car of the future’ which was initially constructed as a scale model then turned into a full-size showcar by Creative for display at the 1954 Chicago Auto Show. The three-seater was driven from the forward-mounted center seat and although it was built without a power plant, the outboard tailfins and air intakes clearly indicated jet propulsion. Leon Dixon has photos of the original Atmos FX scale model taken at Creative in the 1970s. He believes that (like the Predictor) the highly detailed model was used as a reference during the construction of the full-sized vehicle.

It was closely followed by the 1955 Mystère, another forward-looking showcar whose design is credited to Ford’s Bill Boyer. The car made it debut at that fall’s Pacific International Auto Show in Oakland, California. The Mystère included a two-piece Plexiglas canopy whose front two thirds could be raised just like a jet fighter’s. It included a rear-mounted turbine engine, aircraft-style steering and liquid-suspended gauges. In an interview with Leon Dixon Creative’s Gary Hutchings recalled: "I had one heck of a time get­ting the dash gauges installed. I think we floated 'em in an alcohol liquid - they floated you know."

Leon Dixon reveals some interesting details involving the Ford Atmos FX and Mystère:

"Yes, the engine was indeed intended to be a gas turbine (also for the Atmos FX), in fact a 1955 Thunderbird was fitted with a gas turbine engine and tested. This car is actually pictured in an old  Bill Carroll book on gas turbine vehicles. I am not sure, but I believe it might have been a Boeing-based engine. Ford was experimenting with gas turbines at the time as well as GM and Chrysler - although Chrysler took the lead.

"Alex Tremulis once told me that Ford was thinking of putting the same or similar engine (as in the T-Bird) into the Atmos FX and the Mystere. It just never happened for finance reasons. They discovered that while GM was spending huge amounts to build  operable Firebird gas turbine cars, it was far more cost-efficient to simply say the Ford concepts would be powered by gas turbines. This also freed the company from endorsing any one mode of power. In fact, Ford even went one step further and by the early 1960s was talking about ion-powered engines. Really futuristic and something NASA even now is still grappling with!

"Years later when the team I worked on at Mazda made an engineering prototype MX-6 convertible, it was dubbed "The Mystere" in its only public showing at the auto show in Canada. We got approval from Ford to use the name at my suggestion. Another friend of mine, Alex Tremulis also claimed he did some work on Ford's Mystere."

Between 1952 and 1955, the bodies for all of Ford’s fiberglass show cars were fabricated at Creative, but starting with the 1956 Mercury D-528/D-526, Ford Motor Co. started molding their FRP bodies in-house using Ford personnel. However, Ford continued to use Creative's engineering services on a limited basis.

According to Creative’s Dave Margolis, the firm built the bodies for the two 1960 stainless steel Thunderbirds Ford built for the Allegheny Ludlum Steel Co. Exactly what they did is the subject of much debate, as the bodies are known to have been stamped at Budd and finished on Ford’s Thunderbird assembly line at Wixom, Michigan. As one of Creative’s specialties was working with unusual materials, so it’s likely that they welded and hand assembled the bodies using stampings supplied by Budd prior to the finished bodies arrival at Wixom.

The Thunderbirds were part of a decades-long campaign by Allegheny Ludlum to advertise the durability of stainless steel. Ford had previously built six stainless-steel 1936 Ford Deluxes, and later built three 1967 Lincoln Continental convertibles out of the material and the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland, Ohio has an example of each vehicle.

Classic Car’s Leon Dixon states that Creative helped built the prototype Corvette that went on display in January 1953 as part of GM’s touring Motorama exhibits. The Corvette’s body was made of 62 separate lay-ups which were supplied by the Molded Fiber Glass Company of Ashtabula, Ohio. Possible roles played by Creative were in the fabrication of the prototype’s plaster molds and it’s also feasible that Creative finished the prototype’s body as they were one of the few Detroit-based firms that were familiar with FRP (fiberglass reinforced plastic).

In advertising the Corvette, General Motors made extensive use of the term fiberglass, downplaying the term fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) as they reasoned that the public would not purchase a ‘plastic’ automobile.  A GM executive quoted in Fortune in 1953 said that he didn’t mind a fiberglass car “just so long as they don’t try to do it with any damned plastic. Leon Dixon reveals that: "Creative continued to do much prototyping work for Chevrolet on Corvettes at least through the 1970s and possibly later."

Other late 1950s projects included developing revised trim and roof treatments for various manufacturers including Chrysler of Australia.

Starting in the 1960s, Creative branched out into other automotive-related arenas, creating a division that specialized in the production of owner’s manuals and multi-volume factory service books and microfiches for Detroit’s auto manufacturers.

Creative’s expertise was not limited to the automobile industry. They produced the bodywork for the 1962 Aeromobile 200-2, a four passenger 200hp hovercraft designed by Dr. William R. Bertelsen, a Neponset, Illinois inventor and founder of Bertelsen Inc.

The vehicle was commissioned by the US Department of Commerce for display at a number of international trade fairs during 1962.  The Aeromobile 200-2 was shown to Japan’s Prince Akahito at the 1962 Tokyo International Trade Fair and was later exhibited at International Trade Fairs in New Delhi, India Zagreb, Hungary and Turin, Italy.

Bertelsen holds a number of hovercraft patents and designed numerous propeller-driven cushioned vehicles from the mid-1950s into the 21st Century. He later developed the Gimbal fan and now heads Aeromobile Inc. a Rock Island, Illinois manufacturer of hovercraft and Aeroduct plume vehicles.

In the fall of 1962 Creative Industries’ Dave Margolis took future author Leon Dixon and a friend on a high-school-sponsored tour of their 3080 East Outer Drive Plant which Dixon described in a 1978 article in Car Classics magazine:

“After receiving an extensive orientation to introduce us to Creative, the two wide­eyed kids trailed the tour host, occasion­ally turning in circles to gasp at the won­ders we saw. It was like dying and going to car-nut heaven-better! One part of the facilities had expert woodcraftsmen skillfully laboring over beautiful full-sized wood mock-ups, while another was filled with expert metal men forming panels and making castings of elaborate designs. A door on a corrugated metal partition flew open for a split second and we visually de­voured something wild with fins and a low body. Never did find out what it was. What we did find was a group of enthus­iastic specialists and craftsmen, devoted to constant advancement of automotive concepts, the two high school car nuts were among friends and I, for one, never forgot the experience.”

The 1963 Buick Riviera-based Silver Arrow concept car was fabricated at Creative for General Motors’ styling chief Bill Mitchell. A custom chrome-leather interior was fitted, the top chopped, the grill filled-in and the fender-mounted headlights placed behind translucent panels. Mitchell used the car as his personal transportation for a number of years and the car currently resides in the Alfred P Sloan Museum in Flint, Michigan. Leon Dixon relays that the Silver Arrow was originally fitted with chromed Dayton radial-laced knock-off type wire spoke wheels and standard tires, noticeably absent on the surviving car which has been fitted with wide whitewall tires and 1930s-style wheel discs.

During 1963 Creative built the Dodge Charger concept, a roadster-style show car based on the Dodge Polara that debuted at the 1964 Chicago Auto Show. The following year Creative built the Dodge Charger II concept which debuted at the 1965 Chicago Auto Show. The Charger II more accurately reflected the look of the production 1966 production Charger which featured pop-up headlights hidden behind a full-width grill.

Leon Dixon reveals some interesting facts involving the Dodge Charger II:

"This is an unknown fact, but this car was originally intended to predict a set of limited-production cars which were not to be called "Charger" but instead "TURBINECHARGER." These cars were to be equipped with the latest versions (at that time) of Chrysler's revolutionary gas turbine car engine. They would have succeeded the Chrysler Ghia Gas Turbine cars.

"I recounted this fact in my article published back in Special-Interest Autos magazine in the 1970s on Chrysler's gas turbine program. I showed photos of these cars which originally had front ends similar to 1970 Challenger and tail lights slightly different from the production Charger. Chrysler was forced to kill the project even after a new transmission and body dies were already made. The Charger that was produced with a conventional engine was not the original plan. And Creative's Charger II was actually intended to also have a turbine engine, but this was nixed at the last minute."

Creative also fabricated the 1965 Plymouth XP-VIP which debuted at the 1966 Chicago Auto Show. The car was loosely based on the 1965-66 Fury and included an innovative retractable photochromic glass roof that ran on tracks hid by a novel arched center support that ran down the roof’s centerline from the windshield to the rear deck. The car also featured indirect interior lighting, a rear-view TV/camera, a telephone/dicataphone and an iridescent Murano pearl paintjob. Leon Dixon relays: "the paint was not merely "iridescent Murano pearl"... but rather an entirely new kind of paint they called "chameleon" paint. It actually changed colors from pink to green to brown - depending on the viewing angle and lighting."

Creative also produced diminutive automobiles for the automobile industry, creating the ¼ scale 1965 Plymouth Fury Juniors (gasoline go-carts) that were a feature of the Avis exhibit at the 1965 World's Fair in New York and also availible for purchase through Plymouth dealerships.

The September 1966 issue of Motor Trend states that Creative Industries was developing a ‘baby Cadillac’ for Detroit industrialist Ruben Allender, the man responsible for the 1956-1957 Chevrolet El Morocco which was an earlier attempt at creating a ‘baby Cadillac’. Leon Dixon reports that Allender also had plans for building a new revived Packard. Lack of supporting evidence for the construction of either vehicle suggest that both projects were stillborn as are many similar projects today. 

The Virgil Exner-designed prototype 1969 Stutz Blackhawk featured a custom body built by Ghia in Italy using body dies built by Creative, who also participated in the final trimming and assembly of the prototype. Leon Dixon believes that Creative also had involvement in assisting Firestone with developing the prototype LXX narrow-rimmed wheels that were used on this car and later offered for a short time in the aftermarket.

The clay mock-up of the American Motors' AMX was also crafted in a design studio leased by AMC at Creative’s East Outer Drive facility.

Creative Industries main claim to fame is the assembly of the infamous 503 1969-model-year and 3 1970-model-year Dodge Charger Daytona muscle cars. In the fall of 1968 they produced the 500 1969 Dodge Charger R/T 500’s needed by Dodge for NASCAR homologation. The cars are easily identified by the number 500 cut into the rear bumblebee stripe as well as the flush-mounted 1968 Dodge Coronet grille mounted flush to the leading edge of the front fenders - eliminating the recess found on the stock Charger. The vehicles also included stainless steel-covered A pillars and a rear window plug to make the car more aerodynamic. The stock vehicle’s sail panels and inset rear window caused a huge vacuum which created undesirable aerodynamic drag on the car’s rear end.

The winged 1969 Dodge Charger Daytonas commenced production a few months later. The Daytona was a direct result of the disappointing racetrack performance of the 1969 Dodge Charger R/T 500s. By March of 1969 Dodge knew they had a problem and Bob McCurry, Vice-President and General Manager of Dodge ordered his engineers to come up with a solution. They returned with drawings depicting the awkward sloping nose and huge rear aero-wing, assuring him that the car’s new features would make the revised Charger win races. Further testing revealed that the original 12-inch high rear aileron/spoiler made access to the trunk impossible, so the wing was raised to a height of 23 inches allowing the trunk to fully open and further stabilizing the vehicle.

McCurry rushed the car intro production and had a prototype ready for the April 13th public unveiling that was necessary to get the car homologated in time for the September, 1969 race at Talladega.

Most of the 500 Daytonas were previously ordered Charger R/Ts that were diverted to the rushed Charger program in order to get the 500 vehicles built as quickly as possible. The cars were taken from the Lynch Road and Hamtramck assembly plants by transporter to Creative’s new 17630 East 10 Mile Road plant in Eastpointe, Michigan. Upon arrival at Creative the rear window glass was removed, the Creative-built fastback rear window plug installed, then the reworked area sanded, primed and new larger window glass installed.

The car then received the steel rear wing, whose sails were securely attached to the body via two pairs of steel tubes (two per side) that were secured to the frame rails. Then the stock front end of the Charger was removed and the 18-inch steel nose cone affixed to the radiator core supports. The lights were installed and plumbed then the faux front wheel scoops were affixed to the top of the front fenders. The cars were then final sanded and sent to Creative’s paint shop where the nose cone, scoops and rear half of the car was painted to match the original paint on the rest of the car.

When the paint dried, the rear wing and stabilizers were painted black or white, depending on the body color, then the corresponding stripes affixed to the rear quarters. The front lip spoilers were placed into the trunk and installed at the dealer as they were easily damaged while loading and unloading the transporters. Creative Industries met their deadline and had all 500 Daytonas finished by the first of September which meant that Dodge could race at Talledega.

For 1970 NASCAR increased the number of cars needed for homologation to one car for every two dealers. As Plymouth had 3840 dealers in 1969, they needed to build 1,920 Superbirds in order to meet the requirement. Plymouth engineers came up with an aerodynamic package for the Plymouth Belvedere that substituted a Dodge Coronet hood and front fenders enabling a Charger Daytona-style nosecone to be easily grafted to the less aerodynamic Belvedere body.  Upon close inspection you can tell that the nosecone on the Plymouth has a different profile, it’s 19” deep (the Charger’s was 18”), the leading edge cuts into the air at a higher angle and the front air inlet is noticeably larger. Internally the nose cones are the same and incorporate the core support, fiberglass headlight doors and vacuum system of the Daytona.

The aerodynamic profile of the Belvedere’s rear window just as bad as the stock Charger’s so a semi-fastback window plug featuring convex window glass similar to that of the Daytona’s was devised. Rather than leave the unsightly plug and filler panels exposed, Plymouth elected to cover it with a vinyl roof.

Even with the plug installed, wind tunnel tests revealed that the Superbird was still less efficient than the Daytona so a decision was made to reduce drag by enlarging the Superbird’s vertical sail panels by 40% and increasing their rearward angle. The wings were attached to the car’s frame via a triangular brace made from angle iron, with a body-colored molding covering the transition from sail panel to fender. The resulting car wasn’t as sleek as the Charger, but Plymouth brass thought it was more attractive (eg: saleable), and Richard Petty had little trouble winning races in the vehicle.

Despite some published stories that state otherwise (see article by Beverly Rae Kimes in Special Interest Autos #100 pp22-29, 54-57), Creative Industries did not assemble the Superbirds, they only supplied Plymouth with the wings and plumbed nosecone sub-assemblies. The steel snouts were preassembled and painted flat black inside and light primer grey outside prior to their arrival at Chrysler’s Clairpointe St. pre-production facility which was located at the corner of Freud St., just 5 miles from Plymouth’s Lynch Rd. Assembly plant in Detroit.

Completed Superbirds – sans wing, nosecone and front fender scoops – were trucked to Claripointe St. where the missing parts were painted to match and installed. Once assembled, the various Superbird decals were affixed to the cars and they were stored awaiting final transportation to awaiting dealerships. As on the Chargers, the chin spoiler was left uninstalled and placed in the trunk.

The Transformer I luxury electric car was built by Creative for Robert R. Aronson’s Electric Fuel Propulsion Corp. (EFP) from 1974-77 using Chevrolet Malibu donors. Powered by a 180-volt lead-cobalt battery the cars included a small trailer which held a gas-powered 50 kW Fast Charger which could be used to charge the vehicle on long trips. Creative designed and manufactured the fiberglass front end cover that replaced the stock Malibu grill.

Literature claimed that the ‘Cadillac of modern electric­ cars’ could travel for 1,100 miles at a speed of 50 mph, providing the trailer-mounted generator tagged along. Otherwise, the car had a cruising range of two hours on a single charge. Known customers included the London Towne Livery Service of Beverly Hills, California who leased two examples in 1974 and Avis Auto Rental of Chicago who leased twelve of the cars in July of 1976. Leon Dixon relays that Hollywood actor Lloyd Bridges also drove one of the vehicles.

Volkswagen’s US production company, Volkswagen Manufacturing Corp. of America, leased space at Creative from July through December 1976 while they waited for their Warren, Michigan headquarters to be remodeled.

A 1965 issue of Automotive News announced the appointment of two long-time Creative employees as partners:

“Creative lndustries Names Koppin, Leasia as Partners

“Verne T. Koppin and Richard S. Leasia have been made partners in Creative Industries of Detroit, and Richard S. Leasia, Verne T. Koppin will both serve as assistants to the general manager, Rex A. Terry, Koppin, who joined Creative in sales and administration."

The firm's listing in the 1967 edition of Ward's Yearbook follows:

"Rex A. Terry, General Manager. Richard S. Leasia, Sales Manager. Verne T. Koppin, Chief Engineer. David Margolis, Purchasing Agent Products: Wood Mockups, Wood and Plastic Die Models; Patterns; Master and Duplicate Templates."

In 1968 Creative purchased a controlling interest in Detroit Industrial Engineering (D.I.E.) a Detroit-based auto and aero engineering firm founded in 1941 by Charles E. Holzen. In the early 1980s Creative's D.I.E. subsidiary was heavily involved in the development of the C4 Corvette and AMG Hummer.

During 1977 Creative built the second prototype DeLorean, the first prototype, completed in 1976, having been fabricated by Kar Kraft and built by Triad Manufacturing Company using a rear-mounted Citroen CX 4-cylinder rotary engine.

The novel design of the first car featured steel front and rear sub-frames mated to an ERM (Elastic Reservoir Molding) center section which served as the backbone of the vehicle. ERM was comprised of sheets of open cell urethane foam sandwiched between sheets of glass fiber which was then moulded into shape under high pressure. Escalating costs caused DeLorean to abandon the novel ERM design in favor of the conventionally-constructed 2nd prototype built by Creative.

In 1979 Creative formed an aerospace division, Sirius Manufacturing Co., which according to an advertisement specialized in 'Space Propulsion Systems'. Sirius and Creative shared the same address; 3080 E. Outer Dr., Detroit; and officers; Rex A. Terry, president and Vern T. Koppin, vice-president.

During the mid-80s Creative transformed production Chrysler K-cars into the upscale Town and Country convertible by installing faux wood moldings and the installation of a convertible top. The exclusive Mark Cross edition included specially constructed seats and interior appointments.

After Rex A. Terry's retirement, control of the firm was given to Richard L. Leasia and Verne T. Koppin, who purchased a controlling interest in the firm by acquiring both his shares and the stock still in the hands of Fred H. Johnson's descendants. Terry passed away in 1987 at the age of 76.

During the 1980s Creative relocated to a new design-oriented facility at 275 Rex Blvd., in Auburn Hills, Michigan. General Motors utilized Creative’s new design facility while they were preparing to move their N-body compacts - Pontiac Grand Am, Olds Calais and Buick Skylark  - over to the L-car (Chevrolet Beretta and Corsica) platform in 1992. 

Creative built the two Mustang Mach III concept cars that made the rounds of the 1993 auto show circuit, and the limited production 1996 Dodge Ram Indy pickup was also built there. 

The following ad dated 1986 provides an idea of the firm's numerous auto-related operations:

"THE CREATIVE GROUP * Detroit Industrial Engineering Division * Computer Aided Engineering Division * Creative Products Division — Wood and Plastics Operation — Prototype Body Operation — Special Vehicle Services Operation * Development."

The firm's listing in the 1986 Ward's directory follows:

"Creative Industries Group, Inc. 275 Rex Blvd., Auburn Hills, MI 48057. Phone (313)852-5700. Richard L. Leasia, Chairman, Verne T. Koppin, President. James McLernon, Executive Vice President. Services: Complete engineering & design (automotive and aerospace). Products: Prototypes (fabrication & assembly); Stampings; Vehicle Manufacturer."

In 1986, 50% of Creative Industries was sold by Leasia and Koppen to Masco Tech Inc., a Taylor, Michigan-based firm founded by Alex Manoogian in 1929 as the Masco Screw Products Co. Renaming it Creative Industries Group, Masco Tech purchased the remainder of the firm in 1991, and in 1993 reorganized it as Automotive Systems Group, Masco Tech Inc.

At that time Masco Tech was controlled by Masco Corp., who were better known as the maker of Delta faucets. In 1999, Masco Tech was sold to MSX International, an automotive engineering consultancy headed by Erwin H. Billig, Masco Tech's former president.

MSX, headquartered in Warren, Michigan, leased the 151,200 sq. ft. Rex Blvd facility to EDAG Inc. in December of 2006.

EDAG Traces its roots back to 1969 when Horst Eckard opened a design consultancy in Groß-Zimmern near Darmstadt/Germany under the name Eckard Design, opening of first office in Cologne/Germany. EDAG established their first Detroit-area branch to introduce a removable hardtop for the Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky that was inspired by the Pontiac Safari station wagons of the 1950s.

Creative Industries former 3080 E. Outer Dr. plant is currently occupied by Habitat for Humanity - Detroit Restore, while Stephens's Nu-Ad, Inc currently occupies their former 17630 E. 10 Mile Rd. facility in Eastpointe.

© 2004 Mark Theobald - with special thanks to Robert J. Denton (Fred H. Johnson's son-in-law) and Leon Dixon







Edward Janicki - Dream Cars of Yesterday - Ward's Auto World, March, 1988 issue 

Edward Janicki - Cars Detroit Never Built: Fifty Years of American Experimental Cars 

Leon Dixon - Creative Industries: Super Secret Car Builders in Detroit's Backyard - Car Classics, December 1978

Leon Dixon - Gas Turbine Cars, Special Interest Autos no. 57

Leon Dixon - Packard Panther, Packard Cormorant, No. 34, Spring 1984 issue

Leon Dixon - Packard Predictor, Packard Cormorant, No. 131, Summer 2008 issue

Tim Howley - The Road Ahead: Ford Motor Company's Dream Cars of the Fifties - Collectible Automobile, February 2010 issue

Beverly Rae Kimes - Packard: A History if the Motor Car 

John Heilig - Detroit Dream Cars

Mitch Frumkin - American Dream Cars: 60 Years of the Best Concept Vehicles 

Jon Lowell - Mach III: high-end Mustang? - Saddling up with the '94 Mustang team Ward's Auto World, March 1993 issue 

On a binge: more metal stamping orders go to outside suppliers, for now - Ward's Auto World, June, 1989 issue 

Walter E. Gosden - Stainless Reputations: The Ultimate Rust Free Cars - Special Interest Autos #80 December 1980 Issue 

Michael Lamm - The Fiberglass Story - Invention & Technology magazine, Spring 2007 issue 

Jeffrey L. Meikle - American Plastic: a Cultural History. 1997 

Mechanix Illustrated, May 1954 issue 

Buick Silver Arrow I – Car Classics magazine, October, 1977 issue 

William Haigh - Mopar Collector's Guide - June 2004 issue 

Frank Moriarty  - Supercars: The Story of the Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth Superbird 

Motor Trend - September 1966 issue

Car Classics - December 1978 issue

James White Co. - National Cyclopaedia of American Biography; Vol 44; pub. 1962

Rex A. Terry - Creative Industries of Detroit "ENGINEERING DESIGN OF FIBER GLASS BODIES," SAE Technical Paper 580087, Jan 1,1958.

Letter from Robert J. Denton (Fred H. Johson's son-in-law) to the author.

Ken R Noffsinger -

Dr. William R. Bertelsen -

Submit Pictures or Information

Original sources of information are given when available. Additional pictures, information and corrections are most welcome.

Click Here to submit pictures or information


quicklinks|buses|cars|customs|designers|fire apparatus|limos|pro-cars|taxis|trailers|trucks|woodies

© 2004-2014, Inc.|books|disclaimer|index|privacy