A '40s whodunit: Accounts differ on who deserves credit
The company developed a design internally and hired design consultant George Walker to create a second. The two teams were given just 90 days to submit a one-fourth scale model.
Walker's design for the 1949 Ford was well received, and the production car was a hit. For the rest of his life, Walker took credit for the model.
But Walker was just one player in a complex drama that was sorted out years later.
Richard Caleal, an unemployed Studebaker designer in 1946, created the winning car design at his Mishawaka, Ind., home. Caleal worked without pay for Walker because Walker promised him a job if his client selected the design theme.
Walker stuck to his word and recommended Caleal for a job at Ford, and Caleal joined the company in 1946.
In return, Caleal promised he would not disclose that he had penned the model, a secret he kept during Walker's lifetime.
Caleal kept the dies for his scale model in his garage until 1986, when they were donated to Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Mich. They were stored there until 1995, when the mold pieces were cleaned and repaired and a mold of the design theme was produced, wrote Jim Farrell and Fred Hoadley in the April 2001 issue of Collectible Automobile.
For decades after the 1949 Ford hit the street, still others claimed credit for the successful car's styling.
Robert Bourke was Raymond Loewy's head designer on the Studebaker account. Bourke felt bad because he had released Caleal and several other designers in 1946, wrote Farrell and Hoadley.
When Bourke heard about Caleal's chance for a job, Bourke offered to help. Bourke said he made rough sketches of a car, which evolved into Caleal's one-fourth-scale model.
Bourke asked Studebaker clay modelers John Bird Jr., John Lutz Jr., Joe Thompson and designer and modeler Holden "Bob" Koto to help their friend. They all worked in Caleal's kitchen.
Bourke credited Koto for the model's proportions.
Koto said he designed most of the car - and helped Caleal with the mold and cast of the theme model.
The final step was turning the styling theme into a full-sized model, created by Ford's design staff. Ford designer Joseph Oros said he made changes, including raising the roofline and increasing the glass area, according to Farrell and Hoadley.
Who's the father?
But years later, after Walker died, Caleal insisted he was the true father of the design.
"Walker was given credit for my design, and (Elwood) Engle and Oros were credited as 'assisting' Walker, which is a total fallacy," Caleal is quoted by his daughter, Mary Geo Stephenson, in a 1993 article in Collectible Automobile.
"Holden 'Bob' Koto is another man who got into the 'I designed the 1949 Ford act.' I hired Koto to help me make the plaster cast and that is all he did. He had nothing to do with the design," Caleal said.
As for Bourke, "Other than giving me a great deal of encouragement, that was it."
When Ford's Forty-Nine concept, a car that drew inspiration from the 1949 Ford, was shown to the press at the 2001 New York auto show, 90-year-old Richard Caleal was invited to the press conference.
"It's very flattering," Caleal told the New York Daily News that day. "It's like the original - plain and simple."