Vincent D. Kaptur - 1895-1987


Packard's chief body engineer and designer from 1916-1928.

His fine work attracted the eye of Harley who hired him away in 1928 to help organize GM's body engineering and layout. Kaptur was appointed chief of body layout starting in 1930.

The "pregnant" Buick of 1929 was Earl's first failure as a designer. These cars had a stylistic feature called a "rolled belt line" or a widening of the body just below the window openings. Walter P. Chrysler, upon viewing an early production model, said that the cars looked "pregnant," and the Detroit press picked up on his comment. As a result of adverse publicity and the actual public reaction to the design, Buick sales were poor that year. In the end, 56,000 less Buicks were sold than in 1928.

Earl found this ignominious misadventure hard to shrug off, but help (and a return to good favor) soon came to Earl from the contributions of an engineer in his employ.

This man was Vincent Kaptur, who had been hired away from Packard in 1928. Kaptur's job was to check various car body designs for the different products in GM's lineup to ensure that they "fit." After a while, Kaptur noticed that the completely different car models that the divisions made actually were extremely similar in their measurements, even though each division produced their own models "in house."

Why not, Kaptur suggested to Earl, have the divisions standardize on three or four body sizes? Then they could employ a greater parts commonality, and Earl's department could have the job of differentiating each model.

This idea was a concept of scale that would modify the way automotive producers develop their lineups forever, and Harley Earl was the point man who offered the plan to GM management. It was called the "A, B, C, D" plan, in which each letter represented a different chassis "floor plan."

From scoundrel to prophet in a year and a half, Harley Earl was back in GM's good graces, and his department was soon given additional responsibilities.

patent no. 122,077
Design for a Radiator Grille for a Vehicle
Vincent D. Kaptur
General Motors Corp.
Detroit, Michigan


Archer L. Knapp was chief draftsman for Packard's Body Art Dept. from 1917-1925?



For more information please read:

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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

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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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