Designers and Their Cars - Automotive Patent Art Revisited

A Brooks Stevens concept.

Aaron Cole’s post about automotive patent art gladdened my heart. Years ago, I decided to check out some of Les Paul and Leo Fender’s original patents on their electric guitars and I discovered the artistry of patent drawings. These days the United States Patent and Trademark Office, as well as patent offices around the world, accept digitally produced artwork. However, before the digital age, an inventor had to hire someone skilled at technical drawing to produce the various exploded and see-through sketches needed to describe the “preferred embodiment” of a process patent.

Of course the “inventor” of a design patent — a slightly different form of intellectual property that protects the design and look of a product — is more often than not, the actual designer.

Following up on Aaron’s post, I decided to put the names of some notable automotive designers into a patent search engine to see what I could find. My hypothesis was that in the case of a design patent, particularly for a car, the artwork for the patent application was likely to have been drawn by the designer. A patent is a big deal to any engineer or designer and he’d likely want to be the one responsible for representing his own idea best.

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Forward Into the Past Into the Future – Brooks Stevens & Dick Teague Predict the 1970s From 1963

Back in junior high in the late 1960s, we had an assignment to write about “the good life in the year 2000”. Since I regularly read magazines like Popular Science and Mechanics Illustrated, it wasn’t too hard to put something together about edible silverware (didn’t happen) and microwave ovens (did). Perhaps that’s why I like the site Retro Future so much. There’s something meta about looking back into the past at how people looked forward into the future. While researching the Brooks Stevens Studebaker concepts I came across this 1963 clipping from the Milwaukee Journal. Stevens was based in Milwaukee and his hometown paper reported on a panel at the SAE congress in Detroit which featured Stevens and Richard Teague, who was by then the head of styling for American Motors after stints at Chrysler, GM and Packard. Stevens worked as a contract designer for a variety of non-automotive companies in addition to his work for Studebaker. The topic of the SAE panel was the car of the future. Stevens had a grandiose plan for a rolling living room. Teague, no stranger to cutting edge designs himself (cf. Packard Predictor) suggested a more evolutionary process. The interesting thing is that they both sort of turned out to be right, if not on the exact time frame.

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Curbside Classic Dead Brands Week Christmas Edition: 1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk

Desperate times call for desperate measures; and sometimes the result is nothing short of spectacular. The Studebaker Gran Turismo coupe is gorgeous, despite having been cobbled together on a shoestring in six months. It’s also compromised and imperfect, a car that The Big Three would never have built. It did little to change the inevitable outcome of the Studebaker Death Watch, but then it probably would never have been created under other circumstances. There’s nothing like staring death in the face to focus the last remaining creative forces and take exceptional risks. Along with the Avanti, the GT Hawk is Studebaker’s gran farewell gesture. Gone indeed, but hardly forgotten.

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  • EBFlex "I've only filled the gas tank three times in 2500 miles"Assuming you went from 0 gallons to full (17.2), you have averaged almost 50MPG over those 2500 miles. 50 MPG in a Jeep Wrangler. To all of you EV nut jobs, tell me again how PHEVs are not the absolute best thing to happen to automobiles since the wheel. And tell me how they don't make EVs look like the awful play toys that they are.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird The Buick 215/3.5-liter aluminum V8 was one of GMs great engines. Unfortunately GM being GM in one of their greatest mistakes was selling off the tooling to BL. If they kept it around and improved upon it it would have been a fine motor for their compacts and midsize models through the OPEC oil crisis.
  • Chris P Bacon Not sure why a '21 is getting reviewed, because there have been improvements to the 4xe. I've got a '22 4xe Sahara. May 2022 build in High-Velocity yellow with a soft top. As soon as it was announced I knew I wanted to try it, not for the fuel mileage, but for the technology. I don't have a Level 2 charger, it charges fully overnight on the included Level 1. I see an indicated range of 27 miles regularly. Today it indicated 29 when I unplugged. I've only filled the gas tank three times in 2500 miles, a full charge costs me about $3 based on my current electricity supplier. I don't experience the rough transitions between electric and gas, so maybe Jeep figured it out? It's stupid fast when using all the power off the line. So much so that it will break the rear wheels loose when you stomp on it. I agree that plugin hybrids are the future. I see no need for a pure electric. This is the way to go.
  • RHD The word B R O N C O written in contrasting paint on the dashboard is quite unnecessary. The passenger certainly knows what kind of vehicle he or she is in. That detail is a big fail. The red and white Bronco looks great, especially with tires that have honest-to-goodness sidewalls on them.
  • Luke42 Aren't those trim levels just different colors of paint?That's what they sound like, at least. 🤷‍♂️