George Hildebrand 1910-1983


George Hildebrand came with his parents to the USA from Paris, France, in 1915.  His father was a noted fashion designer, and George soon exhibited the design talents of his father.  An early interest in cars took him to all the auto shows and design studios, and soon he worked as an apprentice with such companies as LeBaron and Rollston, helping designing the beautiful bodies of Duesenberg and Packard automobiles. He also studied with master automotive artist Roland Stickney.

In 1939, while working with legendary Cadillac design chief William Mitchell in Detroit, George saw a small want ad in a Detroit newspaper asking for "automotive designers to join the aircraft industry".  The aircraft company was based on Long Island, New York.  Sticking to his saying that "once you've lived in Manhattan, anywhere else is like camping out" - George applied for the job.  On Christmas Eve day 1940 George started his new job as a design engineer with Republic Aviation Corporation.

His first assignment was to design cockpit canopy enclosures with improved visibility for pilots during aerial combat.  One of his projects included the P-47D single piece "blown bubble" canopy.  Next project was the new Republic Seabee amphibian that Republic was developing for the expected post war personal airplane market.  Again George's automotive design experience paid off handsomely.  George was responsible for designing the cabin and considered the Seabee his personal favorite, because "it was the only Republic airplane that allowed the pilot to take along his entire familiy!"  All Seabee enthusiasts who love the 'art deco' 1940s Ford look of the Seabee, are deeply grateful to George Hildebrand and his people for creating the unique classic style of the Seabee.  One of the special features of the interior is the seats that can be arranged into beds!

After the demise of Republic's civil projects, the RC-2 Rainbow airliner and RC-3 Seabee, Republic focused on military aircraft and designed some of the greatest classic jet fighters ever built; F-84 Thunderjet, F-84F Thundestreak, RF-84F Thunderflash, XF-91 Thunderceptor, F-105 Thunderchief.  Hildebrand is credited for the F-105 getting the name "Thunderchief".  George worked closely with his friend, and legend aircraft designer, Alexander Kartveli for many years.  George projects for the 'Thunder'-jets included ejections seats and escape systems, canopies, interiors, etc.  Several of his designs were patented, including the cantilever canopy design of the F-84F and the F-105 rocket powered ejection seat. 

Hildebrand was also consulted by Republic engineering friend Herbert Lindblad to design the interior of the C-1 Skimmer amphibian that Grumman engineer David B. Thurston and Herb Lindblad were designing in their spare time.  Thurston and Lindblad formed Colonial Aircraft Corp. in 1946 to build and market the C-1/C-2 Skimmer amphibians.  They are still produced in developed form as the Lake Renegade amphibians.

In the mid 1960s Republic started suffering hard times, and eventually took on civil non-aviation projects, including a contract with New York State for the design and construction of safety concepts to improve crash survivability in future cars.  With George as the program manager and chief designer, the Fairchild-Republic Safety Car Program designed several innovative safety features that only in our days are starting to be standard on most cars;  interior inflatable crash cushions ('air bags'), high mounted brake lights, children safety carrier seats, seat headrests agains whiplash injuries, high impact bumpers, etc.  Two protoype ESV (Experimental Safety Vehicle) cars were built by Republic Fairchild for DoT in the early 1970s to demonstrate the safety concepts that all cars have today.

George retired from Republic in 1972.  He was always proud of being a "RACer"! George Hildebrand passed away in 1983. 



For more information please read:

George Hildebrand - Wings Magazine, October 2000 issue

Biographies of Prominent Carriage Draftsmen - Carriage Monthly, April 1904

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Daniel D. Hutchins - Wheels Across America: Carriage Art & Craftsmanship

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Michael Lamm and Dave Holls - A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design

Nick Georgano - The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile: Coachbuilding

George Arthur Oliver - A History of Coachbuilding

George Arthur Oliver - Cars and Coachbuilding: One Hundred Years of Road Vehicle Development

Hugo Pfau - The Custom Body Era

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Car

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Era

Richard Burns Carson - The Olympian Cars

Brooks T. Brierley - Auburn, Reo, Franklin and Pierce-Arrow Versus Cadillac, Chrysler, Lincoln and Packard

Brooks T. Brierley - Magic Motors 1930

James J. Schild - Fleetwood: the Company and the Coachcraft

John R. Velliky - Dodge Brothers/Budd Co. Historical Photo Album

Stephen Newbury -  Car Design Yearbook 1

Stephen Newbury -  Car Design Yearbook 2

Stephen Newbury -  Car Design Yearbook 3

Dennis Adler - The Art of the Sports Car: The Greatest Designs of the 20th Century

C. Edson Armi - The Art of American Car Design: The Profession and Personalities

C. Edson Armi - American Car Design Now

Penny Sparke - A Century of Car Design

John Tipler - The World's Great Automobile Stylists

Ivan Margolius - Automobiles by Architects

Jonathan Bell - Concept Car Design

Erminie Shaeffer Hafer - A century of vehicle craftsmanship

Ronald Barker & Anthony Harding - Automobile Design: Twelve Great Designers and Their Work

John McLelland - Bodies beautiful: A history of car styling and craftsmanship

Frederic A. Sharf - Future Retro: Drawings From The Great Age Of American Automobiles

Paul Carroll Wilson - Chrome Dreams: Automobile Styling Since 1893

David Gartman - Auto Opium: A Social History of American Automobile Design

Nick Georgano - Art of the American Automobile: The Greatest Stylists and Their Work

Matt Delorenzo - Modern Chrysler Concept Cars: The Designs That Saved the Company

Thom Taylor - How to Draw Cars Like a Pro

Tony Lewin & Ryan Borroff - How To Design Cars Like a Pro

Frederick E. Hoadley - Automobile Design Techniques and Design Modeling: the Men, the Methods, the Materials

Doug DuBosque - Draw Cars

Jonathan Wood - Concept Cars

D. Nesbitt - 50 Years Of American Auto Design

David Gartman - Auto Opium: A Social History of American Automobile Design

Lennart W. Haajanen & Karl Ludvigsen - Illustrated Dictionary of Automobile Body Styles

L. J. K Setright - The designers: Great automobiles and the men who made them

Goro Tamai - The Leading Edge: Aerodynamic Design of Ultra-Streamlined Land Vehicles

Brian Peacock & Waldemar Karwowski - Automotive Ergonomics

Bob Thomas - Confessions of an Automotive Stylist

Brooke Hodge & C. Edson Armi - Retrofuturism: The Car Design of J Mays

Gordon M. Buehrig - Rolling sculpture: A designer and his work

Henry L. Dominguez - Edsel Ford and E.T. Gregorie: The Remarkable Design Team...

Stephen Bayley - Harley Earl (Design Heroes Series)

Stephen Bayley - Harley Earl and the Dream Machine

Serge Bellu - 500 Fantastic Cars: A Century of the World Concept Cars

Raymond Loewy - Industrial Design

Raymond Loewy - Never Leave Well Enough Alone

Philippe Tretiack - Raymond Loewy and Streamlined Design

Angela Schoenberger - Raymond Loewy: Pioneer of American Industrial Design

Laura Cordin - Raymond Loewy


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