Franklin Q. Hershey 1907-1997
|Franklin Q. Hershey (Frank Hershey) 1907-1997
Franklin Quick Hershey
Frank is probably remembered as the Father of the Thunderbird first and foremost, but he had a long and distinguished career. He was born in Detroit in 1907, moved out to Pasadena and got his first job with Murphy Coachworks, designing custom cars for exclusive clients. When he went to General Motors, one of the first things he did was to redesign the 1933 Pontiac, adding the silver streak of chrome which was to be a hallmark of that marque for years. He later worked for GM's Opel division in Germany, just before World War II.
A shead of Cadillac design, the 1948 Cadillac was really Frank Hershey's personal baby. During the crucial time of design and clay modeling, there was a labour dispute in progress at General Motors, and the design team moved to Hershey's farm.
Later, Frank left GM and went to Ford, where he designed the Thunderbird, which was a huge success -- a classic the day it rolled off the line
Letters - Collectible Automobile, February 1995 pp 4 –
First Serious Attempt
This was my first serious attempt at drawing a car. I had always been car crazy and finally decided to draw one. We were living in Eagle Rock, California, which is near Occidental College, where I was enrolled.
Just before Christmas of 1927, my mother's financial advisor, Mr. Johnson, happened to be at our house. He saw the drawing, was impressed, and said, "Why don't you go over to Murphy's and see Frank Spring. Maybe he'll give you a job." I did, and Mr. Spring, the manager, said, "Sorry. You're not much good. We can't use you."
However, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Murphy were personal friends, and on Mr. Johnson's recommendation, Mr. Murphy instructed Frank Spring to hire me, which he did with the comment, "You're not too good, but we'll see how long you last."
Well, in two month's time, I was doing all their design work. When Murphy went out of business (both Frank Spring and I had already gone to Detroit), Frank made me chief of design at Hudson. I just didn't feel at home at Hudson and, fortunately, after about two months I got a call from Harley Earl to come to GM to run the Pontiac studio. After that, Frank Spring and I and our wives became very close friends.
Franklin Q. Hershey - Hemet, CA
As a young boy growing up in Pasadena, California, Strother MacMinn spent every spare moment drawing pictures of cars or pestering salesmen at car dealers to share their brochures and knowledge of the treasures in their showrooms. It was on one such occasion that a kindly gentleman at the Pierce-Arrow agency provided a turn of fate for Strother by disclosing the whereabouts of a service entrance into the Walter M. Murphy Studio, where he met and became friendly with Franklin Hershey.
Franklin Hershey, one of the best designers in that custom body shop, was so taken with young Strother's sketches that he invited him into a whole new world by having him come to his office Saturday mornings where he showed him the basics of professional body design. This friendship and guidance continued after Hershey moved to Detroit to work at GM, and throughout Strothers' prep school, summer classes at the Art Center School in Los Angeles and high school years. It eventually led to Strother's first working job in 1936 in the Buick studio at General Motors Art & Colour Section with Franklin Hershey as his boss.
With corporate approval from GM's German division, Harley Earl set up a new studio in 1937. Strother MacMinn, John Coleman and George Jergenson, with Frank Hershey in charge and Hans Mersheimer of Opel as design liaison officer, were given the assignment to style the upcoming 1938 Opel Kapitan. It was an exciting enterprise because of its new approach to international styling and included advanced ideas such as built-in headlights, stretch fenders and a clean body form. (That basic model, with face-lifts, remained in production into the early fifties.)
I have some interesting information about the designer of the Opel Kapitän of 1938-1940.
Franklin Hershey worked during the twenties and early thirties for the prestigious Murphy Coachbuilders of Pasadena, California. Since 1932 he worked for General Motors, designing many Pontiac models from 1933 through 1940. In 1936 Franklin Hershey got the assignment to design the "new unit-body Kapitän for Opel in Germany". He worked closely together with Karl Mersheimer of Opel who had more experience with unitary body designs (self supporting body) in wich Opel was one of the pioneers (with Lancia and Citroën) in Europe. In 1938 Franklin Hershey at Opel helped to make the Opel Kapitän production-ready and at the same time redesigned the new Opel Kadett (after the war built as Moskvitch 400 series in Russia!). After the war Franklin Hershey designed many cars for the Ford Motor Company, a.o. the famous Ford Thunderbird of 1955, before turning to industrial designing exclusively."
Frank Hershey And The Thunderbird: Risk Taking In A Different World
In the automotive world of the 21st century, cars are designed with the aid of computers, virtual wind tunnels, (sometimes even real wind tunnels), and finalized by teams of engineers who must ensure that every area of safety and all government regulations have been addressed. It must be homogenized, scrutinized, consumerized, blind taste tested, and crashed into a barrier before it ever sees the light of day. Back in 1952 when Frank Hershey sketched out the first version of the Thunderbird, all it took was a clean sheet of paper, a sharp pencil, and imagination. A year prior to the Chevrolet Corvette’s introduction, one of Hershey’s young assistants at Ford brought him a bootlegged picture of a proposed sports car being developed at GM. Hershey and his staff, Damon Woods and L. David Ash, immediately began a crash program to develop a competitive model. “We had it roughed out in only a few weeks, and one of the guys in engineering was working on a chassis design for us,” recalled Hershey in one of our many discussions over the years. When Frank passed away in 1997 at the age of 89, I felt as though I had lost a true friend and my greatest link to a time before my own. Frank was one of America’s greatest designers, having penned many of the Duesenbergs bodied by the Walter M. Murphy Company in Pasadena, California, in the early 1930s, but the 1955-57 Ford Thunderbird was to be his legacy.
Hershey and his staff had the exterior lines for a Corvette killer completed before Ford management even entertained the idea of building a sports car. Though it is purely conjecture, Ford would likely have forestalled any sort of program well into the late ’50s had Chevrolet not introduced the Corvette at the 1953 New York Motorama. Official approval of Hershey’s design program didn’t come from Ford management until February 1953, one month after the Corvette’s debut and exactly one year before the Thunderbird’s advanced preview at the Detroit Auto Show! This dispels the belief that it took Detroit designers three years to make a change in styling or to create a new car back in the 1950s and early ’60s. “Time was suddenly of the essence,” said Hershey, “and we had to have an acceptable shape within months.” Throughout the summer and fall of 1953, the prototypes, unofficially named the Ford Sportsman and Sportsliner, were refined over and over, with Ford president Lewis Crusoe finally selecting the best overall design in September. It was the original one that Hershey and his staff had done in 1952!
There were still minor elements of the Thunderbird to be sorted out, such as exterior trim, or actually the lack of it. This became something of a personal conflict between Hershey and then design consultant George Walker, who later became vice president in charge of styling for Ford.
“The car was done before Walker ever got involved,” said Hershey. “It was a clean, simple design that did not need accent trim.” Walker, on the other hand, felt quite the opposite. While Hershey was on vacation, Walker added the new 1955 Ford Fairlane body trim to the Thunderbird. The car was photographed that way in 1954 for several ads and brochures, and was added to Lew Crusoe’s personal car. When Hershey returned, he had the trim removed and all the photography redone, though one ad showing a car with the Fairlane trim did appear in 1954 on the back cover of Motor Trend. The Thunderbird’s trim became a battle that would be waged by Hershey and Walker for the rest of their lives. Hershey resigned from Ford after Walker became vice president of design, and word came down that the 1958 models would be larger, four-passenger cars. It was a bittersweet end to Hershey’s career at Ford. The 1955 Thunderbird had been a success, everything the Corvette wasn’t.
Where Chevrolet had failed to give their car substantial performance, Ford answered with a new overhead valve Y-block V8 engine, displacing 292 cubic inches. Coupled to either a manual gearbox or Ford-O-Matic automatic transmission, the four-barrel carburetor-fed 292 delivered 193 horsepower through the manual gears and 198 horsepower with the automatic. The Thunderbird had it all, a big V8, a removable hardtop, an easily operated convertible top, and roll-up windows--everything the 1953-55 Corvette lacked. Everyone at Ford had done their job well, and the public responded by purchasing 16,155 Thunderbirds the first year, better than four times the number of Corvettes sold in 1955.
Rather than a sports car, Ford decided to call the Thunderbird a personal luxury car. Chevrolet called it trouble. I call it Frank Hershey’s greatest achievement. Of the thousands of automobile designs that have come and gone over the last century, few have risen to become icons of an era. Frank gave us that with the 1955-57 Thunderbird.
For the 2002 model year, Ford will honor Hershey and the original Thunderbird design by returning the legendary personal luxury car to its original two-seat design. Frank, if you’re listening, you were right.
Ford's Thunderbird, its first sports car, was designed by Bill Burnett, William F. Boyer, and Franklin Quick Hershey. It was introduced in 1955 to compete with Chevrolet's 1953 Corvette sports car, GM's answer to sporty European imports.
In their early forms, both cars were mostly caricatures of sports cars, concerned with superficial connotations of speed and maneuverability than with their mechanical accomplishments.
This same year, 1955, George Walker was appointed Ford's Vice President of Styling. George W. Walker (1908-1993) was a US automotive designer. He was trained at Otis Institute, LA in 1916, continued at Cleveland School of Art, and headed his own industrial design office in Detroit by 1930s. His firm worked for Nash (1937-1945) and in product design as well. His role at Ford began in 1945 as an independent consultant working on the 1949 Ford, Ford's first true post-war model. He became Ford's first Vice President of Styling in 1955, where he remained until his retirement in 1962. Upon his appointment at Ford, his private office became Lawrence H. Wilson Associates, Wilson being an associate of Walker's since 1942.
In 1957, Ford added two tiny back seats to the T-bird, and sales shot up 50 percent, in spite of the first post-war recession of 1958. The "personal luxury car" was created, when in the 1958 model, the expanded T-bird was loaded with luxury and plushiness. It was a distinguished car.
Motor Trend magazine dutifully reported mechanical shortcomings of the 1960 model, but added, "It is a car apart, and like royalty, rarely is required to count for ordinary deficiencies…the Thunderbird is different, and that is all it has ever had to be."
In 1962, Ford's new head of Styling, Eugene Bordinat, brought the new neoclassical look (taut, razor-edged sculpting) to the Thunderbird, including special editions with wire wheels and fiberglass tonneaus.
Eugene Bordinat, Jr. (1920-1987) was a US automotive stylist who graduated from the University of Michigan. He studied art at Cranbrook Academy, joined GM in 1939, and became a supervisor of the wartime tank program at Fisher Body. He joined Ford in 1947 as supervisor of advanced styling, working mostly with the Lincoln-Mercury Division. He became VP of Design in 1961 and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1980.
The new head of Ford's North American Design section, Jack Telnak, an advocate of aerodynamics, first introduced the new soft "aero" look on the 1983 Thunderbird. This same new look was then used on the 1985 Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable, and their phenomenal success spearheaded US automotive design's return to world leadership over the next decade.
This year, Ford rolled out a new retro design for the Thunderbird designed by J. Mays, who was named corporate Vice President of design in 1997, replacing Jack Telnack. The new millennium Thunderbird seeks to recreate its original 45-year-old mystique, and is scheduled for introduction in June 2001.
Production of the 1955 Thunderbird, designed by William P. Boyer (under the direction of Franklin Q. Hershey) began Sept. 9, 1954, at Ford’s Dearborn (Mich.) Assembly Plant and generated immediate excitement.
The Thunderbird design came from the styling genius of Franklin Q. Hershey and Bill Boyer. He was the young man who had been doing sports car rendering since 1950, and who was hoping to convince management to put this new car design into production.
Designed largely by the young William P. Boyer under the direction of Ford Division styling director Franklin Q. Hershey, the first T-Bird was more of a touring car than a true sports car.
The 1948-49 Cadillac was a dream come true -- the dream of a young boy way back in 1920. Years before that, the boy's Detroit socialite mother, Clara, had purchased the third Cadillac ever built, in 1903. Henry Leland, the husband of Clara's close friend and founder of Cadillac, had loaned his own chauffeur to teach her how to drive. Since that time, there had been a long succession of new Cadillacs in the woman's life. The boy had thus literally grown up with Cadillacs.
But there was something about Clara's 1918 phaeton that awakened in the boy a deep appreciation for a well-designed machine. When his mother sold the phaeton after moving to California, the boy was heartbroken. He began making sketches of it, and from there expanded into the creation of his own automobile designs. Promising himself that one day he would design a Cadillac, that boy grew up to be one of the most influential automobile designers of all time: Franklin Q. Hershey.
Hershey was initiated into the profession of automotive design at the Walter M. Murphy Body Company in Beverly Hills, California, where he created special automobile bodies for movie stars and millionaires. Later, he settled into a position with General Motors in Detroit. There, he developed a Bentley-style radiator for Pontiac, which quickly gained Hershey the recognition and support of Harley Earl, GM's design czar. That was followed by the famed Silver Streak Pontiacs -- a design theme that pulled the marque out of its commercial doldrums and became its trademark for two decades.
Upon his return from a stint in Germany, where he worked with GM's Opel Division, Hershey was made head of the
General Motors Advanced Design Studio at 40 Milwaukee Avenue in Detroit.
When the story of the '48 Cadillac is told, the influence of the plane's tailfins is usually the predominant
theme. However the effect of the plane's design encompassed much more than that. Mitchell said, "You have to
understand the value of what we saw in that plane's design. We saw that you could take one line and continue it from
the cowl all the way back to the tip of the tail -- that you could have one unbroken, flowing line."
Hershey returned to GM in 1944, and Earl put him in charge of the Cadillac Design Studio. The war was winding
down, so cadillac had to be made ready for a return to non-military production. To set the record straight,
Mitchell, who had headed Cadillac design before going into the military, didn't leave the Navy until about a year
after Hershey. Even then, he didn't stay long at GM because he was asked to run a private design firm that Harley
Earl had earlier started with his sons. Both the 1948 and '49 Cadillacs had been designed before Mitchell eventually
returned to GM.
Hershey remembers working on the clay models one day in the studio in the GM engineering building and adding tailfins to a particular model of that series. When Earl came in with Nick Dreystadt, one of the top executives, he saw them and told Hershey, "Take those things off!" Being the rugged individualist that he was, Hershey left the fins on and simply covered them with a drape. Earl came back a couple days later and said the same thing: "I told you to take those things off!" Hershey just covered the fins again.
Some time later, Dreystadt came into the studio, looked at the model, and said, "Thank God, you left the fins on
the car! The top brass loves them!" Earl then encouraged Hershey to leave the fins on the models wherever he wished.
Tailfins had gained a secure foothold in Cadillac design.
The problem was that when top management looked closely at the cars, they finally concluded that their design was just too advanced for the public. Harley Earl had once said, "A fundamental we have learned ... is not to step too far at a time; but every now and then we take a risk." To bring the Interceptor to production was deemed too great a risk. The Interceptor design concept thus went no further than the two prototypes that had been driven on the GM test track. Finally, they too were broken up.
The sad fact is that the Interceptor might well have become the 1948 Cadillac, but the design was judged to be too far ahead of its time. Earl therefore directed Hershey, as the head of Cadillac Design, to take a new tack -- to start over. Because the 1946 and '47 Caddys had been rehashes of the '41 and '42, it was concluded that Cadillac needed a fresh new beginning, one that would reinforce its leadership position of excellence of design.
At this crucial point, a significant event occurred. There was labor trouble at GM and elsewhere in Detroit in the early postwar years, for that matter -- effectively locking the design team out of its studio. During the work on the Interceptor, however, Hershey had bought a 60-acre farm about 30 miles outside Detroit to be near the General Motors test track. In light of the lockout, he decided to move the Cadillac design team -- including his master clay sculptor, Chris Kline -- out to the farmhouse to continue design work in the basement. One of the guys even made a sign proclaiming this to be the Cadillac Design Studio (although the official designation of the team was "Special Car Design Studio"). Fortunately, there was much camaraderie in this makeshift facility -- and even more hard work.
Thus did Hershey's farmhouse become the birthplace of the befinned 1948 Cadillac. Franklin Q. Hershey, the man
who just seven years later would give us the classic two-seater Ford Thunderbird, was also the man who gave us the
'48 Caddy -- his boyhood dream of designing a Cadillac had come true. But it was more than that, for the '48 would
set a design standard that would influence Cadillac for years.
'31 Duesenberg J Murphy Coupe. Won Best of Class (Duesenberg) at '96 PB. My wife tells me she overheard the gentleman with the light colored jacket and ballcap, at right side of the photo: The gentleman is Franklin Q. Hershey who worked for Murphy and personally designed that car.
The 1948 Cadillac is considered by many people to be the pinnacle of Cadillac styling, and is a "Certified Milestone Car." Jan certainly thinks it's the most beautiful car ever to come out of Detroit. It was the first all-new design for the marque since the wartime years, and incorporated "rudder-type" tailfins for the first time, in what was to become a hallmark feature of Cadillacs for the next twelve years, reaching its zenith with the 1959 models and then disappearing entirely in two years. General Motors design chief Harley Earl gets a lot of credit, but the design was really Franklin Q. Hershey's baby, designed on Hershey's farm during a labour dispute. Both Harley Earl and Franklin Q. Hershey had seen the revolutionary P-38 Lightning which legendary Lockheed engineer Kelly Johnson and Hall Hibbard had designed just before the war, and which inspired so many design features in the Cadillac -- not least of which was the "drum-type" housing of the instrument panel, which looked a lot like the display on a fighter; it was a bit expensive to produce, and thus appeared only on the 1948 models. The principal stylistic innovation was the single flowing visual line from front to back -- also inspired by the P-38. It also had those boob-like bumper protrusions which came to be known as "Dagmars," named after an early television celebrity ( photo ).
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