Chevrolet's new compact car, the Corvair, designed by Ron Hill and GM Styling Staff, entered the market in 1960, and received a coveted annual design award from the Industrial Designers Institute (IDI). To most designers, it was a welcome innovative design response to compact European imports, and hailed as a pointed departure from the tail fin and chrome excesses that dominated the previous decade in Detroit (see 1957 Chrysler "Forward Look").
Up to now, Detroit cars came in only one size—big. By contrast, the Corvair was compact, economical, and simple in design; represented the styling sea change many designers had been hoping for—functionality.
The Corvair was GM’s version of the rear-engined Volkswagen, which by 1960 had demonstrated the appeal of imported compact low-cost cars in US markets. The Corvair had a 6-cylinder, horizontal engine and conventional suspension. But the independent swing axles in the rear produced dangerously unstable steering.
Ralph Nader singled it out as "one of the nastiest-handling cars ever built." in his 1965 book, Unsafe at Any Speed, which criticized the absence of automotive safety standards. The very next year, the government established the first safety standards for US cars.
Initially, Corvair sales were successful in cutting into import sales, and captured a huge 42 percent of the new car market. But at mid-year, 1960, Chevrolet brought out an upscale Corvair line, the Monza, which soon accounted for more than half of all Corvair sales. It became clear that customers were still attracted to comfort, convenience, and styling. It was concluded that the initial appeal of the Corvair was not its frugality, but its difference from the previous monotonous line-up of standard family sedans.
So by 1961 the Corvair engine was made more powerful, and by 1962, the Monza Spyder model sported a 150-horsepower, turbocharged engine.
The new Beetle ‘Concept 1’ was unveiled in 1994 by Volkswagen at the North American International Auto Show. It was designed by J Mays, global vice president of design for Ford since 1997, but who in 1990 had joined in the opening of a new design studio in California for Volkswagen-Audi, his employer since 1980. It was the Design Center California of Volkswagen of America in Simi, California, and headed by Charles Ellwood which was linked to the Volkswagen Design Center in Wolfsburg, Germany. Mays’ research for a new American-targeted design revealed a strong customer emotion for the original Beetle, sold in the U.S. from 1949 to 1980, by which time 100 million had been sold, six times that of the Model T. Mays and his team, including Mays Art Center classmate and VW colleague Freeman Thomas, developed the concept which was deliberately reminiscent of the original Beetle’s rounded shape. Public response was extremely positive, and the design reached production in 1998, about 20 years after the last original Beetle was sold in the U.S, and exactly 60 years after the first Beetle was produced in Germany in 1938. The Beetle design had easily become the most popular design concept in history, and appears to remain in our culture forever. The new Beetles were manufactured in Mexico, with water-cooled front-mounted engines (as opposed to the air-cooled rear engines of the originals), and cost $18,000 (about 10 times the cost of 1958 models), but were so high in demand that some sold for $25,000. In 1997, Mays joined Ford and Thomas joined Chrysler in 1999 and by 2002 headed DaimlerChrysler’s Pacifica Studios. In 2005 he joined Ford as director of
This Studebaker Commander Starliner hard-top coupé design was acclaimed by the Museum of Modern Art not as a design, but as "a work of art." It became known as the "Loewy Coupé" or "Bourke Coupé." It was designed starting in 1951 by Robert E. Bourke (1916-1996), who headed Raymond Loewy Associates Studebaker operation in South Bend, IN from 1949 to 1955, with help from his assistants, Randy Faurot and Holden "Bob" Koto. A blend of the best features of European and American design, it was longer, wider and lower than previous models. A sedan derivation was also developed for production. Bourke had attended the Chicago Art Institute and started as a staff designer for Sears, Roebuck in 1935, joining Studebaker in 1940. In 1944 he moved to Loewy's independant group in South Bend, and worked with Virgil Exner (1909-1973) on Loewy's famous 1947 post-war Studebaker design which astounded the market. Bourke replaced Exner as head of the Loewy group at Studebaker, after Loewy fired Exner for conspiring with Studebaker Engineering VP Roy E. Cole to by-pass Loewy in the design of the 1947 models. Loewy had started with Studebaker in 1936 as a consultant for exteriors, and also designed Studebaker's last car before its demise, the Avanti of 1962.