Richard (Dick) A. Teague 1923-1991


    In every age, in every field of endeavor, there are men who stand apart from their, peers. Men whose lifetime accomplishments create new paradigms and establish new boundaries. Those of us who were privileged to be included in the late Dick Teague's wide circle of friends knew him not only as a true renaissance man whose creative talents were boundless but also as a man blessed with unique managerial skills. The automotive design field has known many artistically creative individuals, and-many competent administrators, but only a few who excelled in both disciplines.

Dick Teague rose to the top of his profession despite a handicap that would have proved daunting to an average person. At the age of six he sustained serious injuries in a tragic car accident that left his mother an invalid. He lost several teeth and suffered a broken jaw, but worst of all lost the sight in his right eye. Though this left him unable to perceive depth in the normal way, he nonetheless conceived and brought into production some of the automobile industry's most outstanding vehicles. It seems more than fitting that Eyes on Design and the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology honor this outstanding designer who overcame severely impaired vision to succeed in his chosen field.

Richard A. Teague was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1923 and, as Dixie Duval, had a brief career as a child movie actor in the silent films of the 1920s. His movie career, which had centered on appearances in a series of one-reelers similar to the Our Gang comedy shorts, ended with the 1929 auto accident.

The young Teague soon developed other interests. In grade school in 1930s Los Angeles, he was a serious builder of model airplanes before being bitten by, the hot rod bug, not surprising since his schoolmates included Ed Iskendarian and other southern California car enthusiasts. His first car was a 1932 Ford three-window coupe bought for $125 when he was sixteen. He owned two other Model A Fords, one powered by a V-8 engine, in which he experienced the sheer delight of speed in the time trials at Muroc, a dry lake northeast of Los Angeles. From his early days he was fond of saying that he "had a little gasoline in his blood."

Unable to join the military during World War II because of his diminished eyesight, Teague went to work for Northrup Aircraft in 1942 following his graduation from Dorsey High School. At Northrup he worked as a technical illustrator under Paul Browne, a former General Motors designer who had worked in Bill Mitchell's studio during the creation of the Cadillac 60 Special. At Browne's suggestion, Teague took night classes at Art Center, the fountainhead of automotive design.

"Both Browne and I were drawing cars when we should have been drawing aircraft," Teague admitted years later.

After the war, Teague worked in Oakland, California, for Henry Kaiser and penned a design for a pre-Henry J economy car. He also did magazine illustrations, including an early cover for Road & Track. In 1948, after an interview with Paul Browne's friend Frank Hershey of General Motors, Teague accepted a position in the GM design studios under Ed Anderson. He moved to Detroit and worked as an apprentice stylist, eventually graduating to the Cadillac advanced design group.

Teague left General Motors in early 1951, married, and returned to California with his new wife, Marian. There, he worked briefly for Rhodes Lewis on weapons designs but found he missed the fast-paced world of automotive design. Accordingly, he was delighted when Frank Hershey, who had meanwhile moved to Packard, called and offered him the chief stylist's job. In 1952, Hershey moved again, this time to Ford, and Teague became Packard's styling director under Ed Macauley. This began a period in his life that was equal parts brilliant achievement and heartbreaking frustration. Packard lacked the money to engineer and tool a new body, leaving Teague the difficult assignment of facelifting the 1953, and 1954 Packards with a minuscule budget.

He accomplished the task masterfully and hoped for a fresh chance with the 1955 models, but financial constraints dictated another facelift for the aging body. Teague's restyling of the 1955 model was so adroit that few buyers realized that it was not an all-new car. In addition to the Packard sedan designs of this period, Teague also designed the production Caribbean and the Panther, Balboa, Request, and Predictor concept cars.

When Packard closed its doors forever in 1957, its entire styling management team moved to the Chrysler Corporation, where Teague became chief stylist of the Chrysler studio. As part of the fallout of a power struggle between the legendary Virgil Exner, who had been on leave recovering from a heart attack, and Teague's temporary boss. Ed Schmidt, Teague left Chrysler and went to work for Schmidt's independent design firm. There, he worked mostly on non- automotive assignments.

In 1959, American Motors hired Dick Teague, and he would work there for the remainder of his professional life. He first held the job of chief stylist under his old GM boss, Ed Anderson. When Anderson left AMC in 1961, Teague had established himself to the degree that the company made him the corporation's styling director. In 1964, he was named design vice president and held that post until he retired in 1983.

Dick Teague often referred to his AMC years as "Camelot." Even though he faced some of the same monetary restrictions that had plagued him at Packard, he was still able to work relative miracles by industry spending standards.

During his years at American Motors, Teague and his staff conceived a number of memorable designs, among which were the Marlin, Pacer, Javelin, Hornet, Matador, and Gremlin. His most pleasing designs were perhaps his concept cars: the series of AMX show cars that culminated in the outstanding AMX III of 1969, a design that still looks as fresh as tomorrow.

Teague spent his off hours, what few there were, relaxing with Marian or restoring antique cars. Over the years, he assembled an enviable collection of vehicles that became a private mini- museum known to automobile enthusiasts the world over.

At age 61, Teague decided to retire early. He and Marian built a lovely house near San Diego that he referred to as "a garage with an attached house." Following a long illness, he passed away there in 1991.

Though Dick Teague will be remembered for his many design accomplishments, his friends will remember him best for the power of his personality. He was a valued friend to countless admirers who will never forget his warmth, enthusiasm, and energy.

In their book, A Century of Automotive Style, Dave Holls and Michael Lamm summed up Dick Teague's career this way: "Dick Teague had a long and passionate love affair with classic and antique cars. He habitually haunted swap meets and did nearly all his own restoration work, often laboring long into the night to unwind from the stresses of his AMC routine. Few designers could match Teague's genuine devotion to automobiles and his broad knowledge of automotive history."

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The Pacer is the first car with cab forward design. AMC's VP of styling, Richard Teague, created a car with down-sloping hood, tunneled headlights and huge glass areas giving great visibility. The rear side windows curved around the back where a big rear door allowed good trunk accessibility. Doors like portals provided easy entry. The passenger door was even 10cm longer than the driver's door.

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Teague, Richard A. (Packard) In 1951 Chief Stylist Reinhart resigned. He was replaced by Richard Teague. The 1951 Packard was designed by Reinhart, but it would be Teague who updated the design again for the 1953 cars. Richard Teague also played a prominent role in the design of the 1954 Panther, Packard's first fiberglass- bodied car. Originally intended to be named the Gray Wolf II, in memory of the earlier racing car, the name was later changed to the Daytona Panther when it performed so well at Daytona. Design work on the Panther started in 1951 under the direction of Edward Macauley and John Reinhart. Later, after Reinhart left Packard, Teague picked up where Reinhart left off. Teague also worked on the Packard Balboa and was largely responsible for what would be the 1955 Packard. The rear end of the 1955 was a particularly proud accomplishment for Mr. Teague. It has been reported that the design work took only four hours to accomplish, and Mr. Nance loved it. Richard Teague also designed the 1955 Packard show car, the Request, with the big vertical grill plus many Caribbean type features, and the 1957 Packard Predictor. In 1955 Mr. Teague was made Director of Packard Styling.

 

   

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