To the Editor:
As a 92-year-old car designer and artist from the classic era who worked for or with designers John Tjaarda, Dutch Darrin, George Walker, Werner Gubitz, Phil Wright, John Reinhart and Bill Mitchell, I feel qualified to comment on Keith Crain's column on design and tribute to our friend Chuck Jordan ("Car design: The pendulum swings back," Dec. 20).
It is a breath of fresh air in automotive commentary to see attention paid to something other than the monotonous, single-minded pursuit of performance.
Ever since 1923 and "Somewhere West of Laramie," the car business has been about style and image (social acceptance). Market research today confirms this; they are still the major decision factors for most car buyers.
After World War II, lured away from Woodward Avenue by money and the cachet of Madison Avenue, I spent most of the rest of my life as an artist selling 12 car brands via ads in major magazines.
I'm convinced that most car buyers are not impressed or influenced by a $200,000 car with 600 hp that does 0-to-60 in 3.5 seconds. That has little to do with most people's lives or the streets and roads we travel on.
Crain's comment that "the trick is to know the difference" between a great car and an ugly car "and to fight for the great design" is more to the point and more informative than most automotive commentary today.
Chuck Jordan's idea of keeping everyone else out of the design studios is Nirvana!
But it's not going to happen.
Design and good taste are things everyone feels qualified to critique.
Lucky are the artists and designers who get bosses or clients like Bunkie Knudsen and John DeLorean — luckier still when they become both fans and close friends.
Thanks for reminding people that there's a lot more to the car business than engineers, cubic inches, accountants and dollar signs.