Industrial Strength Design

Industrial Strength Design

Industrial Strength Design: How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World, Glenn Adamson

Author Glenn Adamson documents Brooks Stevens, broad career in Industrial Design from 1934 – 1979. Adamson describes the stories of these ventures, including the Holsum Products peanut butter jar and the Briggs and Stratton hybrid electric automobile. Here are some automotive examples.

In 1938, Brooks Stevens customized his own Cord L-29 Cabriolet. Stevens made slight changes to the body and fender contours, finished off with a streamline paint job, and added a sloping windshield and chrome wheel discs over the stock wire wheels. Next, he removed the rumble seat and folding top and installed a seamless rear body with a rounded fin protruding from the center. (This may be the earliest tail fin to appear on an American car.) He dramatically transformed the front of the car with a bar type grille with sculptured chrome bumpers and teardrop shaped “wood lights.” Today, this car resides in a private collection.

Stevens had his first chance to design a car for mass production beginning in 1943 when he began his consultancy with Willys-Overland in Toledo, OH. The products of this collaboration were the all-steel Model 463 Jeep Station Wagon for 1946 and the Jeepster for 1948. With the Jeep Station Wagon, Stevens had invented the sport utility vehicle – a car that performed equally well on family outings as well as moving furniture. The Jeepster was a four-seat roadster with an open top. The car was unusually agile and provided a firm ride meant to appeal to driving enthusiasts.

In 1961, Studebaker Corporation’s Sherwood Egbert brought in Brooks Stevens for alterations to the 1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk. Stevens’ long, sharp, and finless Hawk was dramatic change of pace. The squared-off hardtop with a stainless steel trim line flowing from the front to rear offered a sharp contrast to the previous styling. The car garnered an enthusiastic reception with the automotive press and the public alike, with sales three times that of the previous year’s offering.

Adamson’s research and writing yield a through look at Brooks Stevens’ influence on industrial design. The author provides insights about this creative force for over four decades. His love for sharing this history, along with historical and contemporary photographs, adds interest and draws you into the story.

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