Eugene T 'Bob' Gregorie 1908-2002
Bob Gregorie's youth was spent on the East Coast of the United States, primarily on Long Island. This marine atmosphere inculcated in him a lifelong love of ships--steam yachts and sailing vessels.
As a young man, he spent his professional apprenticeship in the great ship design firms of New York City. Much of his later success he attributes to this exacting discipline.
With the shock waves generated by the 1929 stock market collapse and the ensuing Great Depression, Bob Gregorie was faced with the reality that yacht commissions were be, coming few and far between. Characteristically, he turned to automotive design where he hoped to apply the design fundamentals he had acquired in ship design.
After discouraging stints with the fast fading custom body firms, in 1932 he arrived in Dearborn where he had been referred to the Ford Motor Company. Edsel B. Ford, who had been the avatar of tasteful design at the Ford Motor Company since the early 1920's, had, with the success of the 1932 Ford V-8, established a small professional design center at the Dearborn complex. Heretofore dependent on local body firms, Ford decided to develop special bodies at his personal direction. To head up the operation, he hired young Bob Gregorie. They hit it off almost from the beginning. Edsel was delighted with Greaorie's marine design background and his quiet air of confident authority.
Gregorie was largely responsible for the practical but modern lines of the Ford from 1935 to 1948. Several of of these models are highly regarded by today's collectors.
Edsel Ford's vision of modern design which had early taken shape with the stylish, custom-bodied Lincoln began to flower in 1936 with the emergence of the boldly streamlined Lincoln Zephyr which, two years later, provided Ford and Gregorie with the base of one of the most admired designs of the 20th century: the Lincoln Continental. Artfully blending the radical shape of the Lincoln Zephyr with Edsel Ford's vision of a "continental" automobile, Gregorie and his talented design staff produced the sweeping, soaring lines of what was to become the 1940 Lincoln Continental.
Introduced in the fall of 1939, the Continental was a critical success largely due to its classic, yet modern body contours. Its acceptance by design aficionados and a select consumer audience was universal. In 1951, it was selected by the Museum of Modern Art as one of the eight best pre-war automotive designs.
Gregorie with characteristic modesty, attributes the design of the Continental to Edsel Ford's inherent good taste and critical eye. "He was," says Gregorie, "a generous and perceptive mentor who closely followed the development of his dream car." But much of the credit for the Lincoln Continental's design must go to Bob Gregorie whose masterly implementation of his mentor's suggestions produced an enduring triumph of modern automotive design.
We salute then, Bob Gregorie as the recipient of the Designer Lifetime Achievement Award for the 1990 Eyes on the Classics. Gregorie retired in 1947, and currently resides in St. Augustine, Florida, with his wife, Evelyn.
The Lincoln Zephyr, designed by John Tjaarda and Howard Bonbright of the Briggs Manufacturing Company for Ford under the supervision of Henry's son, Edsel, and revised by Bob Gregorie, was introduced in 1936.
It was based on an earlier rear-engine design by Tjaarda, the Briggs Dream Car shown at The Century of Progress Exhibition in 1933-1934. The design had a short front hood which sloped down quickly (similar to the original VW Beetle) which was consistent with the new "streamlining" trend.
Bob Gregorie had just been chosen in 1935 by Edsel Ford to head up Ford's new internal styling group, which from this time on would not need to use Briggs or any other outside styling sources.
Gregorie used his new authority well. He had witnessed the 1934 controversial introduction of the Chrysler Airflow which was "too streamlined" to suit public taste. In particular, the public disliked the blunt, rounded hood. He did not repeat this fatal error. So he moved the engine (of the Dream Car concept) to the front and added a graceful hood shape similar to an inverted, underwater ship's prow, which dramatically changed the character of the design. Gregorie's classic revised design was patented in 1935.
The name Zephyr was clearly a reference to the first truly streamlined train, the Burlington Silver Streak Zephyr, designed by Albert Dean of the Budd company, that debuted at the Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago in 1934. The very word, Zephyr, suggested the latest in streamlining technology.
The Museum of Modern Art later called the Lincoln Zephyr the first successful streamlined car in the US, and it led to the even more classic Lincoln Continental of 1939.
Eugene Turrenne "Bob" Gregorie, Jr., US auto designer was born in New York City in 1908. In 1927 he started as a draftsman at Elco Boat Works in Bayonne, NJ, and moved to yacht designers Cox & Stevens in NY in 1928. In 1929 he began automotive work at Brewster & Company, and the same year at General Motors with Harley Earl, but almost immediately the stock market crash cost him his job, and he returned to Cox and Stevens.
In 1931 Gregorie took a position at the Lincoln Motor Company off and on as a body draftsman. He gained in experience and in the admiration of Edsel Ford and in 1935 was placed in charge of the new styling group at Ford. He also designed the first Mercury and the Lincoln Continental in 1939. With the death of Edsel Ford in 1943, Gregorie briefly left the company but returned in 1944 at the request of Henry Ford II. In 1946, he set sail for 15 years on the trawler he designed, The Drifter. In the mid-1970s he retired to St. Augustine, FL.
Eugene “Bob” Gregorie, Ford Motor Co.’s first design chief, died Dec. 1 at his home in St. Augustine, Fla. He was
Eugene T. (Bob) Gregorie, Ford Motor Co.'s first design chief and creator of the Lincoln Continental, has died.
He was 94. He died Sunday in St. Augustine, Fla.
Mr. Gregorie also designed what would become the 1949 Mercury, which was driven by James Dean in the classic movie "Rebel Without a Cause," and the 1936 Lincoln-Zephyr, which the Museum of Modern Art in New York called "the first successfully streamlined car in America."
A former boat designer from Long Island, N.Y., Mr. Gregorie moved to Detroit in 1929 to work in the automotive field. He was hired by General Motors Corp. but lost his job a few months later at the start of the Great Depression.
In 1931, at age 22, he was hired by Edsel Ford, president of Ford Motor Co. and son of founder Henry Ford. The two became an inseparable design duo.
"Gregorie's primary attribute was he could translate what Edsel Ford wanted into three-dimensional designs," said Jim Farrell, who has written extensively about the history of Ford designs. "He could sit and sketch while Edsel talked in his office."
Mr. Gregorie's first assignment was to design a small vehicle for Ford's European market. He produced the Model Y, which became successful in England, Germany and France.
In 1935, Edsel Ford decided to bring all the company's design work in-house and made Mr.Gregorie chief of the new department.
Mr. Gregorie soon was at the center of a conflict between Henry and Edsel Ford, who disagreed on the importance of a design team.
"The designs of Gregorie are timeless," said Henry Dominguez, the author of "Edsel Ford & E.T. Gregorie. "They're well-proportioned, clean."
Mr. Gregorie, with Edsel's guidance, designed every Ford, Mercury, Lincoln-Zephyr, Lincoln and Ford truck and tractor produced between 1935 and 1945, Dominguez said. Ford announced earlier this year it would stop making the venerable Continental as part of a companywide restructuring.
Mr. Gregorie lost his protector when Edsel Ford died of cancer in 1943. He left the company soon after that, returned at Henry Ford II's request in 1944, but left again two years later when he found himself frequently at odds with top management.
At 38, Mr. Gregorie moved to St. Augustine and spent much of the next two decades sailing and designing yachts. He never returned to automobile design.
Mr. Gregorie is survived by his wife, Evelyn, and three nieces, said family friend Nancy Ulrich
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