The Vintage Auto Designs Detroit Didn’t Want You to See

A new documentary, "American Dreams," is unearthing automotive design sketches from Detroit’s Golden Age that were never supposed to make it out of the studio.
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A new documentary, "American Dreams," is unearthing automotive design sketches from Detroit’s Golden Age that were never supposed to make it out of the studio.

An upcoming documentary, “American Dreaming,” focuses on a crew of relatively unknown—at least by name—heroes of mid-century America, the car designers at swaggering American brands like General Motors, Chrysler, AMC, Studebaker, and Packard. These people were responsible for stunning feats of American mid-century modern design, finned Cadillacs, aggressive AMCs and clean Fords, as crucial to the creation of an American aesthetic as Frank Lloyd Wright houses or Bill Blass suits.

But unlike the design sketches of architects or fashion designers, the early artwork of car designers was routinely destroyed by their employers, so as to evade capture by competing brands. Thankfully, Detroit-based art collector Robert Edwards caught on to an important fact: designers, unhappy to see their work destroyed, regularly smuggled sketches out into the world. He estimates over 10,000 smuggled drawings exist, so for decades, Edwards has been hunting down these errant bits of American automotive history.  Beginning this week, his collection is being exhibited at Lawrence Technical University, so you too can share in the wonder of the work made by Detroit’s artisans. 

If you can’t make it to the exhibition, we highly recommend donating to the documentary’s IndieGogo—producers Edwards and Greg Salustro need an adequate budget to film these cars, and these artists, as they deserve to be filmed. Need convincing? Check out our luscious slideshow of some of the slinkiest designs never produced.

Photos by American Dreaming