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.