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Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
8/13/21 8:33 a.m.
feature_image

Before the advent of computer-aided design, how did automotive designers come up with new shapes and forms for the latest and greatest cars?

The answer is simpler than you might think: By hand, using lots of clay.

Read Peter Brock’s reflections on his days in the GM styling department, and …

Read the rest of the story

ShawnG
ShawnG UltimaDork
8/13/21 9:35 a.m.

Bill Mitchell is a genius:

Datsun310Guy
Datsun310Guy MegaDork
8/13/21 9:42 a.m.

Yep - I always think about the cars designed first on a drafting board and they just looked fast.  

olpro
olpro Reader
8/13/21 10:00 a.m.

For anyone serious about this subject, check out THE best car design history site, bar none. My old buddy from GM Design Staff days, Gary, has assembled an amazing resource on this subject. The information is almost endless.

http://www.deansgarage.com/

pinchvalve (Forum Supporter)
pinchvalve (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
8/13/21 10:04 a.m.

Take a minute and imagine carving this freehand, just using your imagination:

I'm sure today they use computers first and fine-tune with clay (maybe even carve the shape from a computer file) but back in the day people just willed these shapes into being with their hands. Amazing.

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
8/13/21 10:50 a.m.

They used slide rules. It has yet to be equaled. 

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
8/13/21 11:25 a.m.

In reply to olpro :

That's really cool, thanks for sharing.

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
8/13/21 11:27 a.m.

It's good to see clay models are still in use today, albeit with some help from a robotic clay carver.

vwcorvette (Forum Supporter)
vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
8/13/21 12:30 p.m.

I used an Amiga 3000 to design a replacement for the Fiero back in 89 in college. Made a clay model of it too. No longer have the model but have prints of the design around here somewhere.

RichardSIA
RichardSIA Dork
8/13/21 4:03 p.m.

Probably showing (off?) my age again but back when I was a lad I was gifted a model kit that was a primer on how the Clay's for auto styling were done.

Of course it had a drawing and templates to build the show car on the box lid.
But once that had been done you would know how to create anything that struck your fancy.
The clay could be reused.

CAD rendering today may present a more visually appealing finished image but you cannot hold it in your hand, or put wheels on it and roll it around the table.

I still use some of the techniques from that old kit in my fiberglass work.

frenchyd
frenchyd UltimaDork
8/13/21 5:39 p.m.

Sir William Lyons used to have a steel  preliminary model brought by his house so he could study the shadow lines in the setting sun. They called it Fag packet engineering.  Fag is  British slang for cigarettes.  Basically it was sketches turned into metal and then modified according to Sir Lyons eye.   
No clay involved. 

j_tso
j_tso GRM+ Memberand Reader
8/13/21 9:13 p.m.

For a sporty car, putting a computer model in fluid dynamic simulation is cheaper than renting a wind tunnel.

I read an article about TVR still sculpting models by hand in the 2000s. They used foam and full size drawings. The modelers would shape half a car then cut cardboard templates to shape the other side.  Much later after putting the Tuscan in production they put it in a wind tunnel and found it had a crazy amount of lift.

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa PowerDork
8/13/21 9:32 p.m.
RichardSIA said:

CAD rendering today may present a more visually appealing finished image but you cannot hold it in your hand, or put wheels on it and roll it around the table.

???

3D Printers May Be Toxic for Humans – Particles Released Can Infiltrate  Deep Into the Lungs

Karacticus
Karacticus GRM+ Memberand Dork
8/14/21 5:24 a.m.
Appleseed said:

They used slide rules. It has yet to be equaled. 

Back when I was in school, went to a presentation by one of the guys involved in the design. 
He said they used Friden mechanical calculators as well. 

stafford1500
stafford1500 GRM+ Memberand Dork
8/14/21 11:20 a.m.
j_tso said:

For a sporty car, putting a computer model in fluid dynamic simulation is cheaper than renting a wind tunnel.

I read an article about TVR still sculpting models by hand in the 2000s. They used foam and full size drawings. The modelers would shape half a car then cut cardboard templates to shape the other side.  Much later after putting the Tuscan in production they put it in a wind tunnel and found it had a crazy amount of lift.

That's not quite true. I spend a pretty serious amount of time in wind tunnels on actual race cars. The production usage of the tunnels is still pretty strong too. There is always signs of clay work on the floor. CFD (computational fluid dynamics) can get you pretty far, but the tunnel results can be generated in minutes and give a complete car measure of the performance versus hours to days for CFD. However CFD is used to get directions. Tunnel results can/are used to provide the drag numbers that help drive the CAFE numbers...

LeftLaneLoser
LeftLaneLoser UltraDork
8/14/21 1:42 p.m.

Interesting how the greatest designs were done without computers. And once computers got involved everything looked stupid or lifeless. 
 

hit the power button designers. Lock yourself in a secluded room, where you are only allowed to watch pre 1970's tv and commercials. Listen only to pre 1970 music, and watch the creativity stArt flowing. Then have them pen a vehicle. 

Junkers
Junkers New Reader
8/16/21 2:47 p.m.
LeftLaneLoser said:

Interesting how the greatest designs were done without computers. And once computers got involved everything looked stupid or lifeless. 
 

hit the power button designers. Lock yourself in a secluded room, where you are only allowed to watch pre 1970's tv and commercials. Listen only to pre 1970 music, and watch the creativity stArt flowing. Then have them pen a vehicle. 

The advent of computers has absolutely nothing to do with the lack of talent among the general public in the last 30+ years - it's only a symptom of a greater cause.  The fault lies with the school system which has held that education must be pumped in and painted on.  It worked OK for teaching little girls, but boys were being "diagnosed" with the made-up disease/disorder of ADHD as if something was wrong with them for not being able to sit still for the 6hrs of useless, boring indoctrination.  The only true "success stories" were the conformists or autistic ones (mechanical men).  The conformists appeared as normal but their natural born-in intuition was being weakened systematically and their obsequious conformity was being rewarded daily.  They were being pedestalized for memorizing rote facts and having no original thoughts of their own.  This earned them A+ grades and perfect GPAs.

Meanwhile in the Art World, we were all being taught that dog vomit was a form of artistic genius.  Abstract was highly prized and praised.  So what happened to all those creative kids?  They ran from here to there until they either killed themselves or were psychologically conditioned into some form of conformity or rebellion.  The message was clear, "intuitive people need not apply."  Generations of conformists in charge have safeguarded all of the ranks below them and paneled them with conformists and brown-nosers.

As computers were blindly accepted as the way of the future in one profession after another, the auto styling world was still going strong with their hand-made clay models and mechanical survey machines.  The practice of generating and using templates intuitively trains your senses to understand the pleasing simplicity of combining these shapes and transitioning from one into the next.  Changing the design and refining it by hand only takes a few hours.  But the newer generations just didn't have the intuition necessary to develop these kinds of skills - it was systematically removed from them.  They grew up playing with Star Wars dolls and video games.  When someone bought them a model car kit, they had to throw it in the trash when mother deemed the glue as unsafe for baby or it "didn't have good enough instructions" for dad to build for junior.  The old guard stayed in their design jobs as long as they cared to stay but it must've made them sick to see what was replacing them.

Oh, and that SR-71 that Kelly Johnson designed was 100% intuitively formed.  He simply KNEW (without knowing how he knew) how to shape and design that aircraft to incomparable PERFECTION.  He even intuitively designed the ramjet engines and the system of ducts that bypassed and fed the core turbojet engines.  If he were educated in today's school system, he would have been medicated by age 5 and a high school dropout by age 16.  He was educated in a one-room schoolhouse.

It's intuition that's missing.  Think about it!  If ducks had to go to school to learn how to fly and swim, there would be a hell of a lot of failures and medicated ducks.  You have the power inside of you to buck your programming, but if that happened we would barely need government, doctors, bosses, mega-schools, etc.  The parasites love the modern era.

And what about the music industry?  The same 3 men have been writing all of the latest hit songs for over 100 puppet "artists."  Original thought is so outdated.

So indoctrinating someone into the 1970's wouldn't make him any more creative.  Even indoctrinating people to style cars in clay using time-honored traditions wouldn't do it.  It takes an inner spark that a person must find for himself and it takes a culture of "leave him alone to do as he wishes" to keep from blowing out that spark.

Incidentally, does anyone still believe in evolution?  I seem to have inadvertently  detailed a good account to support DEVOLUTION right here for you.

Matt
Matt Reader
8/16/21 3:59 p.m.

In reply to Appleseed : agreed. Kelly Johnson was a genius

 

APEowner
APEowner GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
8/16/21 4:01 p.m.
Junkers said:
LeftLaneLoser said:

Interesting how the greatest designs were done without computers. And once computers got involved everything looked stupid or lifeless. 
 

hit the power button designers. Lock yourself in a secluded room, where you are only allowed to watch pre 1970's tv and commercials. Listen only to pre 1970 music, and watch the creativity stArt flowing. Then have them pen a vehicle. 

The advent of computers has absolutely nothing to do with the lack of talent among the general public in the last 30+ years - it's only a symptom of a greater cause.  The fault lies with the school system which has held that education must be pumped in and painted on.  It worked OK for teaching little girls, but boys were being "diagnosed" with the made-up disease/disorder of ADHD as if something was wrong with them for not being able to sit still for the 6hrs of useless, boring indoctrination.  The only true "success stories" were the conformists or autistic ones (mechanical men).  The conformists appeared as normal but their natural born-in intuition was being weakened systematically and their obsequious conformity was being rewarded daily.  They were being pedestalized for memorizing rote facts and having no original thoughts of their own.  This earned them A+ grades and perfect GPAs.

Meanwhile in the Art World, we were all being taught that dog vomit was a form of artistic genius.  Abstract was highly prized and praised.  So what happened to all those creative kids?  They ran from here to there until they either killed themselves or were psychologically conditioned into some form of conformity or rebellion.  The message was clear, "intuitive people need not apply."  Generations of conformists in charge have safeguarded all of the ranks below them and paneled them with conformists and brown-nosers.

As computers were blindly accepted as the way of the future in one profession after another, the auto styling world was still going strong with their hand-made clay models and mechanical survey machines.  The practice of generating and using templates intuitively trains your senses to understand the pleasing simplicity of combining these shapes and transitioning from one into the next.  Changing the design and refining it by hand only takes a few hours.  But the newer generations just didn't have the intuition necessary to develop these kinds of skills - it was systematically removed from them.  They grew up playing with Star Wars dolls and video games.  When someone bought them a model car kit, they had to throw it in the trash when mother deemed the glue as unsafe for baby or it "didn't have good enough instructions" for dad to build for junior.  The old guard stayed in their design jobs as long as they cared to stay but it must've made them sick to see what was replacing them.

Oh, and that SR-71 that Kelly Johnson designed was 100% intuitively formed.  He simply KNEW (without knowing how he knew) how to shape and design that aircraft to incomparable PERFECTION.  He even intuitively designed the ramjet engines and the system of ducts that bypassed and fed the core turbojet engines.  If he were educated in today's school system, he would have been medicated by age 5 and a high school dropout by age 16.  He was educated in a one-room schoolhouse.

It's intuition that's missing.  Think about it!  If ducks had to go to school to learn how to fly and swim, there would be a hell of a lot of failures and medicated ducks.  You have the power inside of you to buck your programming, but if that happened we would barely need government, doctors, bosses, mega-schools, etc.  The parasites love the modern era.

And what about the music industry?  The same 3 men have been writing all of the latest hit songs for over 100 puppet "artists."  Original thought is so outdated.

So indoctrinating someone into the 1970's wouldn't make him any more creative.  Even indoctrinating people to style cars in clay using time-honored traditions wouldn't do it.  It takes an inner spark that a person must find for himself and it takes a culture of "leave him alone to do as he wishes" to keep from blowing out that spark.

Incidentally, does anyone still believe in evolution?  I seem to have inadvertently  detailed a good account to support DEVOLUTION right here for you.

Wow! That's a lot of if ignorance and offensive tripe packed into one diatribe.

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
8/16/21 4:02 p.m.

Well, this took an odd turn to an echo chamber of wackos.

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa PowerDork
8/16/21 4:06 p.m.

In reply to ProDarwin :

You can say that again.  

Junkers
Junkers New Reader
8/16/21 4:11 p.m.

Wow! That's a lot of if ignorance and offensive tripe packed into one diatribe.

Let me guess, you're an intellectual and I've hurt your feelings.  Let me ask you, what stung you the worst?

Junkers
Junkers New Reader
8/16/21 4:16 p.m.
ProDarwin said:

Well, this took an odd turn to an echo chamber of wackos.

Sometimes uncovering the causes of problems hurts feelings - especially when people believe that their "identity" has been attacked.  That's when the defamation and name-calling starts.

Junkers
Junkers New Reader
8/16/21 4:25 p.m.
Matt said:

In reply to Appleseed : agreed. Kelly Johnson was a genius

 

You should read his book, it's a quick read and will show you that he is quite a plain, down to Earth man.  Einstein was another man like him.  Einstein was well hated by his teachers and had to drop out of school, but that was Europe and American schools hadn't become infected yet.  Both of these men in today's American school system would have been deemed utter failures and would have been targeted for destruction.

msterbeau
msterbeau New Reader
8/16/21 4:34 p.m.

In reply to LeftLaneLoser :

I've been an automotive designer for 30+ years.  The idea that the introduction of computers = the fall of design is bulls**t.  At the same time computers became widespread, the industry was addressing the need for greater safety, better aerodynamics and fuel economy, a demand for better quality and with it the rationalization of the manufacturing process, and a tightening of budgets.  All of those impacted the car's aesthetics in significant ways.

There are and always have been many talented designers out there.  The computer is just a tool, and like all tools it can enhance or detract from the creative process depending on the users and those that manage them.  There are a zillion ways that computers enhance design and manufacturing.  I can't imagine any creative designer working now would ever want to go back to using only the old, analog tools.  Nor can I imagine using only those tools making a design better.  

Also, I'm sorry your brain stopped processing information after 1970.

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