After three years designing in the "styling" studios of Ford motor Co. where I worked on the first Thunderbird , two experimental cars (D-523 & D-524), and 1957 Ford cars, I was hired by Virgil Exner and assigned to the Desoto styling studio where I worked on the 1957 through 1961 Desotos and on 1961 and 1962 Imperials while on loan to that studio.
Some designers above: Vince Geraci, Bob Gale, Bill Lucas, Vivian Fuchs. At center table, Les Petoe, J.R.Samsen, Fred Beamish. Tom Bannister was manager, and Jack Koenitz was assistant. This was a turbulent time for the Chrysler Corp. design dept.; Exner had a heart attack and while convalescing, designer William Schmidt took over the design department. Personnel were shuffled around according to Schmidt's plans. Then Exner returned, Schmidt left, and studios were re-shuffled. For a short time, I was assistant to Dick Macadam in the Valiant/Dart studio where I designed the grille and rear quarters of the 1964 Dart.
When Exner was fired and replaced by Elwood Engle from Ford, the studios were again shuffled. Most of the designers from the Desoto studio which was disbanded wound up in the Plymouth studio- including Gerry Thorley, Dave Cummins, Irv Ritchie, Fred Schimmel, Bill Shannon, Vince Geraci, Bob Gale, Milt Antonik, and myself. Plymouth studio now also designed the Valiants.
The Barracuda began as an idea of Irv Ritchie's. He had always liked fastback cars like the popular Olds, Buicks, and Pontiacs of the late 1940's which had been replaced by "hardtop convertibles". Ritchie began to sketch fastback versions of the Valiant, and made a full-size drawing of the roofline and rear end over a seating drawing, to prove the design was practical. Styling execs were interested in the idea, and persuaded corporate officers to allow a design study on a full-size clay model. Ritchie and I were assigned to do design concept sketches of a fastback Valiant . I liked reverse-slant "C-pillars" and large backlites, so that is what I presented. I was happy when I was chosen to direct the clay modeling of my design. I'm sure Ritchie was disappointed that he did not get to direct the clay work, but he was always given credit for the initial concept. Enginering demanded large external hinges for the little trunk, so I designed the wide chrome band on the top of the deck lid to disguise the hinges. I was not happy with this as I prefered less chrome on cars. Most of the execs liked the car's design and deceided to put it into production. The Plymouth Division people came up with the name "Panda" for the car, and when we designers made a fuss, told us to suggest names. My list of names included "Barracuda", and it was chosen.
Desoto Studio in 1956
My Formula S at Mt. Washington in 1965
My '63 Stingray and Fred Schimmel with his 911S in 1965
Pittsburg Plate Glass Co. was chosen to make the glass backlite. It was the largest piece of glass
used on a car, and they had a lot of trouble with it. They were unable to hold the shape designed
on the model, and production backlites had a bubble shape that bothered me a lot. Later they improved the shape, but never matched the design shape. The shape in the ads and brochures was touched-up to look better, as in the above picture. I also designed the road wheels.
Before the car was in production, we were doing the 1965 model, and the Formula S package. The
fish ornament was designed by Milt Antonik and was a hit with everyone! I placed an order with a
Detroit dealer and took delivery of a silver Formula S which I was quite happy with. On a trip to
New England and the NY Worlds Fair, I folded the rear seat and slept under the glass bubble