How can you resist stories about the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild? This was the contest process put in place by General Motors where talented young men through about the age of 18 were challenged to design a new car or build a coach to prove their mettle and talent for designing a new car (or craftsmanship in building a model coach).
The article I found today offers three areas of interest to me:
1: It is in the immediate postwar timeframe – 1947 – where car design was about to become exciting, innovative, and sometimes outrageous in the 1950s.
2: It shows 13 year old Virgil Exner Jr., in the contest showing some of his designs and work.
3: Some of the young men who built their own models for this contest were also the same young men who went on to design and build their own fiberglass sports cars in the 1950s and 1960s.
Let’s have a look at the article and some of the fantastic color photos that were included.
Junior Styles Tomorrow’s Cars
Mechanix Illustrated: March, 1947
Watch out, you professional car designers – these up and coming ‘teenagers will have your jobs!
THE automobile of tomorrow should have a rear engine, better visibility and smooth and unbroken body lines – so think the youthful winners in the 1946 competition of the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild.
The lads seem to be on the beam. Look at their models!
David W. Whitman chiseled and filed his car out of pine. Little Virgil M. Exner, only 13, turned out a job nearly the equal of a professional designer’s, the experts say. Virgil is the son of the chief designer for the Studebaker Corp., and seems to have inherited his father’s talents.
In a well-equipped workshop, with side trips to a nearby dime store, he made a beautiful plaster of Paris rear-engine model with radiator intakes along the front edges of the rear fenders. Vincent J. Rauth, 19, a farmer boy, won with a two-tone job in light and midnight blue, with plexiglas windowsâ€”using chiefly a chisel, wood rasp and sandpaper.
Robert J. Hartlieb, Jr., 16, offered a model of balsa wood, machining the wheels out of aluminum. Charles C. Bradley, 14, gave the front of his model a spinner like that on an airplane propeller, for letting air into a duct that carries it back to the rear engine.
The competition is held for boys in the age groups 12 to 15 and 16 to 19. They may submit models either of the automobile of tomorrow or the Napoleonic coach of yesterday. Eight university scholarships and nearly twelve hundred cash awards, to the value of over $75,000, are offered.
There is no entrance fee. Each boy who enrolls is given a complete Plan Book with sketches and instructions. Applications may be addressed to the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild, General Motors Building, Detroit 2, Mich. The 1947 competition closes June 15.
The story above has also been shared on one of my favorite websites called “Modern Mechanix – Yesterday’s Tomorrow Today.” If you visit this website and story, you’ll see additional comments at the end of the article including some from the family of one of the young men in the article who led a long and productive life – well worth scrolling down and reading. Click here to review this story and the comments associated with it.
We’ll be featuring more stories written about the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild in the near future. And…we’ll also be featuring a great article from the April, 1959 issue of Road & Track showing Virgil Exner Jr’s first car. So…stay tuned….lots coming your way here at Forgotten Fiberglass.
Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…
Glass on gang…
I stumbled across this article by way of Motorology. My boss has one of these models dated 1957 from his Father(he
has passed on)sitting on his desk at work on top of the original box with all the USPS labels on. I’ve admired it for he last 2 years, I finally asked him if i could take some pics at his desk and post them online on FB.He looked me straight in the eyes and said NO! but he did say is you can take it home box and all and show it off all i want. I’m getting ready to take pictures and post them, is there a way to post to this site or a site related to? To some folks it’s not a big deal to have these,However they are all 1 of a kind which makes me feel Damn Good my boss loaned it to me…..
I belonged to the guild in the late 50’s & then attended & graduated from the Fisher Body Tech School in Denver after High School. Both experiences have had a beneficial impact on my life long love affair with the automobile. sez: grandaddy-Os (fb)
I had this magazine at home, when was a kid. My father was a subscriber of Mechanix Illustrated. This issue made me think and decide to study design and being a professional. Later I followed Exner\\\\\\\’s carrer very close and admired his projects and products. Nice to review it here.
I participated int he Fisher Body craftsman’s Guild for 5 years from 1962 throgh 19666. I built and neteered 5 cars but never won anything. I recently restored my cars and took them to a Guild reunion @ Scittsdale Arizona. There I met other Guildsmen and saw other Guild cars for the first time in my life! Although not a prize winner the experience is still a hilight in my life and I credit the Guild for encouraging me to further my eduaction. I received a BS in Mechanical engineerng from Fresno State in 1972 and have had a great career in petroleum engineering.
In the early ’50s I entered a vehicle in the Fisher Body competition but didn’t win anything. My entry was a station wagon with a raised roof in the rear section with a small windshield so the rear seat passengers could see forward. In 1964 Oldsmobile came out with the Vista Cruiser, just a coincidence?
I’ve had the fortune to speak with Virgil Exner Jr. on several occasions and can say that he is an amazing man.
He continued to design and like his father, had an amazing career designing for various companies. We’ve all driven, ridden in, or drooled over at least one or two that he had a hand in. He still is involved in design, as part of the ‘League of Retired Automotive Designers.’ They continue to design for fun and display, with the goal of helping to promote and inspire new designers.