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Thursday Trivia

Robert Emslie February 16, 2017 Thursday Trivia 4 Comments

Welcome to Thursday Trivia where we offer up a historical automotive trivia question and you try and solve it before seeing the answer after the jump. It’s like a history test, with cars! 

This week’s question:What two picnic favorites did automotive design legend Brooks Stevens influence?

If you think you know the answer, make the jump and see if you are right!

How many famous Italian automotive designers can you name? I’ll bet it’s quite a few. Okay, now how many famous American designers can you similarly list? Shorter list?

The number of notable American designers is seemingly fewer because while many European car makers turned to Italian design houses for even their bread and butter models, the major American manufacturers tended to handle things in-house and typically frowned on crediting individual designers. 

Oh sure, there was Harley Earl, Bill Mitchell, Larry Shinoda, and others, but the companies for which each worked still tended to ascribe designs to teams rather than individuals. The American coachbuilding industry however, was a different story.

Specialty cars were a big deal before WWII when any number of companies would offer a bare chassis and an owner would commission a coach-built body to be constructed on top of it. It was sort of like having a tailor-made suit, only you could drive it.

Following the war such extravagances grew increasingly rare, but their place was taken by the limited production car which wee often proffered as more unique owing to having a body designed by a notable draftsman. Alex Tremulis, who had built his name at Cord, Duesenberg, GM and Ford did just such a job for Preston Tucker giving his short-lived automobile an appearance just as unique as its drivetrain.

Another noteworthy American designer was Brooks Stevens, a Milwaukee born and bred industrial designer best known to auto enthusiasts for creating the retro-mod style with his 1960’s Excalibur. Stevens also designed the 1955 Gaylord and, along with Raymond Loewy, founded the Industrial Designers Society of America. 

In fact, Stevens might be better known outside of automotive circles, that is, if the fans of the products he influenced even knew about his work. Two of those products are summer picnic favorites, and one of those even has an automotive connection.

From the Milwaukee Record

One of Stevens’ most recognizable creations is the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. The infamous vehicle of a giant hot dog on top of a wheeled bun was a beloved logo for millions of American children. Stevens designed the fleet of six Wienermobiles to travel across the country and promote Madison, Wisconsin-based Oscar Mayer products. The drivers—known as Hotdoggers—were recent college graduates who made stops in cities across the county hyping Oscar Mayer.

His work with Miller Brewing is still iconic to this day, as he came up with the logo for the classic Miller High Life: “The Champagne of Beers.” Even from a material standpoint, while working with Miller, Stevens influenced the company to change the bottles from brown to clear to accompany the message of this elegant bubbly brew.

Stevens’ legacy continues to this day in the Miller label, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, and other products, as well as some of the most evocative automotive designs of the fifties and sixties, including the Studebaker Hawk, Jeep Jeepster and original Cherokee, and Harley Davidson FL Hydra-Glide. The designer passed away on January 4, 1995 at age 84.

Images: CGTrader, RoomService

 

  • JayP

    Fantastic!
    The Stevens’ wiki has enough trivia as to go full Cliff Clavin at the bar tonight!!

  • 0A5599

    Don’t believe everything you read on Wikipedia. Stevens designed the SJ Cherokee and its sibling SJ Grand Wagoneer. The Grand Cherokee debuted as a ZJ, which followed Larry Shinoda’s design.

  • Batshitbox

    I know Italian coachbuilders mostly because they slap their names all over everything they build. There aren’t any Cadillacs, Studebakers or Mopars that have little “Earl” or “Exner” badges stuck in prominent places.
    Americans are far more likely to know names of customizers like Roth and Barris.

  • dukeisduke

    I think I knew about the Weinermobile, but I’ve always wondered why Miller is in clear glass bottles. He and Raymond Loewy were the best of the industrial designers of the twentieth century.