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The Automotive Chronicles

Monthly newsletter published by McLellan's Automotive History. Dedicated to literature collectors, restorers, museums, publishers, manufacturers and investors who collect and preserve automotive literature
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November 2004 Issue
 
ARTICLE
 
Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild Reunion
By Robert McLellan
 
Guild Members Reminisce
(Photo by Harry Schoepf)
Click for larger view

In late June of 2004 a reunion of Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild design competition contestants from 1930 to 1968 was held. As a past participant and winner, I would like to thank General Motors for the opportunity the company gave us to prove to ourselves and to others that we could do more than just sketch designs in our school notebooks. The competition provided the springboard for many of us to launch careers in design and/or establish that we had the ability to see a job through and be rewarded for it. That sense of accomplishment meant a lot to us and, after all these years, we are grateful to meet one another and admire each other's models.

1966 - John Melberg
( Photo by Ron Will)
Click for larger view

As young boys interested in building a model for the contest we had minimal information provided to us by the Guild and I doubt that many of us knew previous contestants or had friends who were also building entries. Presumably GM wanted to keep information to a minimum. They sought originality and did not want us to have studied the work of others. A review of most of the models certainly conveys a variety of ideas mostly very original.

Anticipation of the arrival of the small envelope of information from GM, outlining the contest rules, objectives and instructions, was countered by shock. It was an enormous challenge to do something that I had never done anything like before and did not know how to do. Could I do it?

A 1932 Coach Entry
(Photo by Harry Schoepf)
Click for larger view

My father, who had entered the contest in the 1930s with a Napoleonic coach, was an engineer and believed that without detailed plans nothing could be properly built. Although supporting me, he dismissed the project as a folly. After all "art and design people always interfere with good engineering. You cannot have it both ways and be successful", he would say.

Starting with four wheels attached to axles mounted to a wooden base, I affixed a large blob of green modeling clay. Slowly I sculpted an object that was similar to my drawings. Using a small lathe, I cut headlamps out of clear plastic and hubcaps from aluminum. To form trim and bumpers, a hacksaw and files shaped aluminum which could be polished to give a chrome appearance. Red epoxy was molded into tail light lenses.

Now for the hard part. The body had to be transformed into wood and both sides had to be identical! It gets worse. All the plastic and metal parts had to fit exactly as they were in the clay model! This gargantuan task had to be the breaking point for many contestants. What should have taken weeks was taking months. Weekends were extending into time for sports, television and social activities. Finally, with little time left, the last coat of paint was applied and the shipping box was built. No sooner was it shipped than plans for the next model were begun. All the lessons learned on the first model would be incorporated into the next one — a better design, along with revised or new techniques and refined skills. The challenge had to be met.

A reunion gave participants in the competition their first opportunity to compare results. It is very strange that most of us never saw more than black and white photographs of the top winners and learning how other contestants constructed their entries was a mystery.

Click for larger view
Guild Members Hold Fond Memories
 
1937 - John Rauth
(Photo by Ron Van Gelderan)
1947 - Tom Goad
(Photo by Steve Purdy)
1947 - Chuck Jordan
(Photo by Harry Schoepf)
     
1949 - Elia Russinoff
(Photo by Ron Will)
1959 - Bill Scott
(Photo by John Perkins)
1961 - Ron Will
(Photo by Ron Will)
     
1963 - Bob Aikins
(Photo by Ron Will)
1968 - Stewart Reed
(Photo by Steve Purdy)
Bill Moore
(Photo by Ron Will)
     
Phillip Bonine
(Photo by Ron Van Gelderan)
Ron Hill
(Photo by Ron Will)
Virgil Exner Jr.
(Photo by Ron Van Gelderan)
 

To capture the spirit of the reunion, an article in "Collectible Automobile", December 2004, by Steve Purdy is highly recommended. "Recaptured Youth: A Reunion of the Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild" provides a thorough review of the activities and history, but most of all introduces you to the guildsmen and their models.

Click for larger view
Guild Models Represented at Reunion
 
1932 - Coach
(Photo by Harry Schoepf)
1937 - Rauth
(Photo by Terry Graboski)
1947 - Virgil Exner Jr Model
     
1947 - Chuck Jordan
(Photo by Harry Schoepf)
1949 - Elia Russinoff
(Photo by David Chartier)
1953 - Thomas McDonnel
(Photo by David Chartier)
     
1954 - George Chartier
(Photo by Ron Will)
1955 - George Anderson
(Photo by Harry Schoepf)
1955 - John Perkins
(Photo by Harry Schoepf)
     
1956 - Allen Wiedeman
(Photo by Ron Will)
1956 - Bill Moore
(Photo by Harry Schoepf)
1956 - Henry Huizenga
(Photo by David Chartier)
     
1957 - Bill Scott
(Photo by Harry Schoepf)
1958 - Bill Scott
(Photo by Harry Schoepf)
1959 - Bill Molzon
(Photo by Ron Will)
     
1959 - Bill Scott
(Photo by Harry Schoepf)
1960 - Darwin Hawthorn
(Photo by David Chartier)
1960 - Ronald Pellman
(Photo by Harry Schoepf)
     
1960 - Stuart Shuster
(Photo by Ron Will)
1961 - Anthony Simone
(Photo by Ron Will)
1961 - Ron Will
(Photo by Harry Schoepf)
     
1962 - Philip Bonine
(Photo by Ron Will)
1965 - Bud Magaldi
(Photo by Ron Will)
1965 - Glenn Hagen
(Photo by Harry Schoepf)
     
1965 - John Hambrock
(Photo by Harry Schoepf)
1966 - John Mellberg
(Photo by Ron Will)
1968 - Stewart Reed
(Photo by David Chartier)
 

In 1987 John L. Jacobus wrote an article, "Once & Future Craftsmen: A Fisher Guild Scrapbook, 1930 to 1968", which appeared in "Automobile Quarterly", Volume 25, Number 2. It was the first significant effort to document the Guild's history and gave insight into the efforts and accomplishments of thousands of contestants. Jacobus' soon to be published book, The Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild: An Illustrated History will be much more comprehensive and enlightening. For more information see a previous Automotive Chronicles article here and to purchase please go to www.McFarlandPub.com.


Also available are two CD-ROM diskettes that cover the reunion and the models, as follows:

"Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild Reunion" by George Chartier and his son, David. Photos shown above are only a sampling and have come from various sources. Only ones credited to David Chartier are on this CD. $11.00 (includes shipping). Diskette is organized as follows:

Day One ~
Craftsmans Guild Reunion
Concept cars
Day Two ~ Eyes on Design Show
Fisher Body Models
Auto Exhibits
In the Parking Lot

Order diskette from:

George Chartier
28067 Southfarm Lane
Northville, MI 48167
E-Mail: DAVkeychain@aol.com

 

George Chartier and Ron Will are working together to gather all past Guild literature to build a historic file before it all disappears. If anyone has literature, old Guildsman newsletters, instruction books, photos etc., they would be interested in buying, trading or even copying these to fill in all the missing chapters of the Fisher Body Guild history from 1930 to 1968. George can be contacted at the address above. Write to: Ron Will, 39 Oak Ridge Drive, Voorhees, NJ 08043 or send an e-mail to him at Rwill@subaru.com

 

Eyes on Design, a benefit for the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology, was pleased to host the reunion which was a very popular highlight of the car show. Held each year at the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, the 2005 car show will celebrate International Vehicle Design on June 26th. While there will be several special exhibits related to the theme International Vehicle Design, it would be very difficult, indeed, to match the tremendous interest that was generated in the Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild display at Eyes on Design 2004.

For updated information on this year's event go to
http://www.eyeson.org/html/evn_eod_evn.htm

 
The Automotive Chronicles, November 2004
 
 
 
 
 
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