Video: Inside GM Styling, 1959

Here’s a rare, in-depth look behind the scenes into the design process that created the fabulous 1959 Chevrolet. Beautiful color and production values—check it out. 



When this film was produced, General Motors was bursting with pride about its styling division, justifiably so. Led by design vice president Bill Mitchell, who was just then replacing the retiring Harley Earl, GM Styling was the largest and most accomplished group of its kind in the world. This 1958 clip, an excerpt from a longer GM production about industrial design called American Look, focuses on the design effort that would eventually produce the 1959 Chevrolet. The setting for much of the movie, naturally, is the GM Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, which at that moment was nearly brand new and touted as one of the commercial wonders of the world.



There, we are treated to some priceless glimpses of the styling studio, including the dramatic lobby. Next we go inside to the working areas for some vignettes on the design process, including rendering, tape drawings, clay models and fiberglass prototypes. It’s a valuable review of how the job was performed in the late 1950s, and our favorite part of the video. At the end of all this fascinating work, we meet the finished result: the 1959 Chevrolet—arguably the most aggressively styled Chevrolet in history.

Also featured at the finale are the GM Styling Dome and two familiar GM dream cars, the Firebird II and the XP-500 free-piston vehicle. There’s a lot to see here in only 10 minutes—enjoy the film.


12 thoughts on “Video: Inside GM Styling, 1959

  1. In 1959 I was ten years old, the youngest of a family of “car guys”, and was frankly disappointed with the styling of all the new ’59 autos. My least favorite that year was GM.
    As I advanced in age I gradually began to have an increasing appreciation of the ’59s.

  2. Please tell that ninny narrator that the design was sculpted…. not “sculptured” !

  3. What a difference 1959 was from today. We’ve turned from a can do society to a can’t do society.

  4. All 59 G.M. cars were designed on a crash program to catch up with the Chrysler’s new Forward Look finned wonders. All 5 divisions had the same greenhouses, firewalls and windshields along with many inner body panels so the company could get these completely redesigned 59’s on the street as fast as possible. It was really quite a feat they accomplished in a short period of time.

  5. I was born in 1959, and I’m a Ford man, but the 1959 Chevy is to me the hands down best design for that year. It just looks fast even sitting still with those flattened tail fins and cat eye tail lights. Much better than the awkward MoPar’s and boxey Ford’s. Their only weakness was the stupid X frame design.

  6. I had a 59 Impala and really love that car. Wish I had it back.Mine was already souped up when I got it but still was a fun automobile to drive.

  7. Great movie, thanks for sharing. More “suits” shown in the movie than the way it really was back in those days.

    Lots of familiar faces are shown here, sadly, most are now gone. Here is what I was able to pick up in the way of old friends.
    1:41 Sparky Bonstead and (maybe) Bob Cadaret
    3:45 Bud Sugano
    3:58 Jim Common
    4:41 Charlie Magi, Sparky
    4;48 Frank Funk, Sparky
    5:05 Bob Diebboll
    5:25 Claude McCammon, Clare “Mac” MacKichan, Bob Lauer, Sparky
    6:32 Jay Snyder
    Those were hard working, but great days at GM Design.

  8. General Motors has been an excellent caretaker of their Technical Center that was designed by famed architect Eero Saarinen. Eero’s design for the Tech Center received architectural accolades beginning in 1956, when it was hailed as “one of the great 20th Century compositions born out of the sense of civic responsibility of a great corporation” by Max Abramovitz, and it was described as an “Industrial Versailles” by Architectural Forum.

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