Hot Rodding, Then and Now
Edsel Ford and Harley Earl by Henry Dominguez from “Edsel, the Story of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Son”
I think that one of the major reasons that most, if not all, of us are here is because of the innate beauty of the Ford automobiles that has been recognized since the early thirties. I became a "Ford man" in the early sixties (before I could drive) not because of the engineering, but because the Fords just looked so much better than anything else on the road or in the pages of R&C and Hot Rod.
I am currently reading a marvelous book that all Fordophiles should read and own (buy one, support the author!): "Edsel The Story of Henry Ford's Forgotten Son" by Henry Dominguez, 2002, SAE International. The book is well written and extremely insightful as exemplified in the following (unedited except for an omitted off-topic digression in the middle; italics as in original), which contrasts the designers and the companies (and thereby the cars):
"...Harley Earl, an imposing, boisterous Californian, ran the General Motors design department, whereas Edsel, unpretentious and gracious, ran the Ford design department.
"Both Edsel and Earl were extremely talented men when it came to understanding automobile design, but each man ran his design department with diametrically opposed methods. Edsel was democratic and paternalistic, whereas Earl was dictatorial and authoritative. This disparity in personalities and management techniques made the design studios of General Motors world famous and the one a Ford essentially unknown.
Earl, with his flair for notoriety and need for recognition, made sure that everybody was aware of him and his design department. Edsel, on the other hand, was content in developing his designs out of the limelight and in the seclusion of his Dearborn studio.
Ironically, Earl's Art & Colour Section would become the epitome for automobile design studios, but the designs created by Edsel's diminutive staff were to become the envy of the industry.
"Although Edsel held the title of president and Earl the title of director, Earl was probably Edsel's closest counterpart in the area of automotive design. Only 16 days apart in age, the two men would direct their respective design studios as though they were generations apart. Both used energy and talent, but Edsel used progressive techniques in managing his studio, whereas Earl used dictatorial methods so typical of that time.
Edsel and his team of designers developed their models within a group atmosphere, but Earl used fear and intimidation to obtain designs from his men. This dichotomy was due to the different personalities of each man, but the organization in which each worked also played a part. Edsel himself had the final say in all Ford designs, but Earl had to sell his ideas to divisional heads and to Sloan himself. 'It was not a question of selling or intimidating a policy committee,' confirmed Gregorie, 'but of working together with Edsel toward a common goal.' Even Gregorie, who tended toward independence, supported Edsel in his team approach. 'There are not going to be any prima donnas here,' Gregorie told his staff. 'We are all working boys. Let's do a good job. Let's please Mr. Edsel and if there are any problems, let's sit down and talk about them.'
"That was not the situation at General Motors. Because of his domineering personality, Earl set up an elaborate hierarchy within his studio, which deliberately put distance between himself and his designers. At Ford, however, there was but one layer of red tape –
Thanks for sharing. There is no comparison between todays vehicles and those of the past. When you look at any of the older vehicles, it’s all lines and curves, every angle brings out a new vision, whereas with today’s vehicles a person has to look twice to figure out which is the front end. The radical designs of the past that failed due to the conservative views of the time, will draw a crowd today -- Cord - Auburn - Airflow - Studebaker - Edsel, Ya gotta love 'em.