The Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild

An Illustrated History


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About the Book

The Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild was a national auto design competition sponsored by the Fisher Body Division of General Motors. This competition was for teenagers to compete for college scholarships by designing and building scale model “dream” cars. Held from the 1930s through the 1960s, it helped identify and nurture a whole generation of designers and design executives.
Virgil M. Exner, Jr., Charles M. Jordan, Robert W. Henderson, Robert A. Cadaret, Richard Arbib, Elia ‘Russ’ Russinoff, Galen Wickersham, Ronald C. Hill, Edward F. Taylor, George R. Chartier, Charles W. Pelly, Gary Graham, Charles A. Gibilterra, E. Arthur Russell, William A. Moore, Terry R. Henline, Paul Tatseos, Allen T. Weideman, Kenneth J. Dowd, Stuart Shuster, John M. Mellberg, Harry E. Schoepf, and Ronald J. Will, are among those designers and design executives who participated in the Guild. The book also describes many aspects of the miniature model Napoleonic Coach and other scale model cars the students designed.

About the Author(s)

John L. Jacobus, a former Guildsman, is a retired auto safety engineer. He works as a technical writer and safety management consultant in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Bibliographic Details

John L. Jacobus
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 359
Bibliographic Info: 171 photos (41 in color), tables, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2013 [2005]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7161-4
eISBN: 978-0-7864-9338-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1


Background      7

Purpose of the Guild      11

Public Relations Bonanza      12

Overseas Craftsman’s Guilds      12

Lives Changed      13

Tenets, Values and Virtues      14

Demise of the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild      14

Unanswered Questions      15

Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild Time Line and Milestones      16


Introduction      21

The Fisher Brothers      21

Philanthropy      22

Fisher Body “Royal Coach” Trademark      22

Napoleonic Coach Trademark      23

Youth Scholarship Program      24

Source of Inspiration      24

Napoleonic Coach Designers and Creators      25

Master Model Coaches      26

Plans and Instructions      28

Guild Purpose and Organization      29

Advertising, Promotions and Incentives      30

Napoleonic Coach Competition, Master Craftsman Class      36

Shipping Crate      36

Judging and Scoring Coaches      37

Some Napoleonic Coach Details      38

Coach Builder’s Biographic Survey      39

Some Ingenious Ideas Used to Build a Coach      39

Napoleonic Coach Kits      40

Labor Hours Required      40

The Guildsman, Official Magazine of the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild      41

Traveling Coach Competition, Apprentice Craftsman Class, Inaugurated 1934–35      41

1934–35 Traveling Coach Competition Regions      42


Pre-World War II Model Car Competition (1937–1940)      45

Post-World War II Model Car Competitions (1946–1968)      50

Model Body Styles, Dimensions, and Construction Methods      62

Materials Used by Guildsmen      67

Tools and Equipment Used by Guildsmen      67

Trim from Common Household Items      68

Metal Trim and Brightwork      69

Paint      70

Construction Materials and Methods Used      70

Secrets of Success      75

Subcontractors      82

Guild Clubs      83

GM Dealers      85

Art Center College of Design      85

Stylist’s Genes, Pedigrees and the “Right Stuff”      86

Project Planning      87

Family Know-How      88

Top 18 Brother or Family Scholarship Teams      92

Labor and Time Commitment      93

Shipping Container      94

Deadline      94

Judging and Scoring      95

Quantity of Model Entries for Selected Years      101

Judges’ Workload      104

GM Sons’ Presence      104

1963 and 1966 Competition Demographics (Age, Education) for Awardees Only      105

Program Diversity and International Scope      106

Age Bracket Expansion      107

Fairness      107

Purchased or Duplicated Models      107

The Regional Awards System      108

Competition Integrity      109

National Guild Convention and Banquet      111

Being a National Scholarship Winner      115

Consolation Prize: Certificate of Design and Craftsmanship and Score Sheet      116

Demise of the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild      116

Can’t Keep a Good Man Down      118

Legacy      119

Postscript      121

Between pages 124 and 125 are 16 color plates containing 41 photographs


Napoleonic Coach Builders      125

Model “Dream Car” Makers      140

Afterwards      248

Non Sequitur      251

Recovery and Identification      252

Non-Guild Memorabilia      254

Future Guild Reunions      254

Accredited Industrial Design Programs      254


Appendix A. Fisher Brothers in Brief      255

Appendix B. Skip Geear’s FBCG Foundation and Mini-Museum      256

Appendix C. Coach Builder’s Biographic Survey Form, June 1997      257

Appendix D. Fisher Body Division’s Role During World War II      259

Appendix E. Model Car Competition Rules and Regulations      260

Appendix F. Popular Construction Techniques Used by Guildsmen      262

Appendix G. The Awards and Regional Awards System      268

Appendix H. Detroit Guild Convention Details for Selected Years      270

Appendix I. Analysis of Some Aspects of the 1963 and 1966 Model Car Competitions      273

Appendix J. Overseas Craftsman’s Guilds      278

Appendix K. U.S. Guildsmen by Name, Year(s), University and Vocational Interestt      284

Appendix L. The Fisher Body Crafsman’s Guild: A Model for Educational Reform, by Anthony V. Simone      288

Appendix M. Persons Officially Assigned by GM Styling to Be Design Judges      290

Abbreviations, Acronyms and Terms      291

Acknowledgments      295

Chapter Notes      305

Bibliography      313

Index      323

Book Reviews & Awards

“wonderfully researched, diligently executed piece of social and automotive history. Unique, real American history, and great fun. Highly recommended”—Choice; “interesting…informative…marvelous…highly recommended”—Old Cars Weekly; “one of the most intriguing automotive books of recent times…definitive…a treasure”—Cars and Parts; “exhaustive…unique…worth the price…absolute must”—Hemmings Classic Car; “definitive…extensive…fascinating”—CruZin’ Magazine; “outstanding…thorough…fascinating”—The Automotive Chronicles; “masterfully and meticulously details the history of the Guild”—The Auto Channel.