Killing the Goose...

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Chapter 22

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Chapter 21: Taurus 

Toward the end of 1981 I was as comfortable in Small Car/Luxury as a man could be anywhere. I had challenging work, sponsors and friends. Frank Mendolia was there and he was his old fun-loving self, still feuding with Strick but not letting it get in the way of his relationship with others. Dave Davidson, Mike Aloe, Dianne Frank and Lynn Elledge were also there. Dave was the one I replaced in Lincoln/Mercury Interiors who told me about Harry Finley’s vow to “get that nigger” before I entered the studio in 1966. Mike, Lynn and Dianne no longer called him “River.”  

A long time Sculptor named Paul Davis went to the same high school I did and had some of the same teachers although he graduated in the ’50s. As a teenager he worked as a chicken-plucker at a market near my home. I remembered him in that terrible job when he told me about how fussy some of the women were – especially the Polish women and the black ones. Remembering how demanding my mother, my Aunt Lillian and the Polish women I saw with them in the market had been with the chicken-plucker I laughed so hard it hurt.  When I told him why I was laughing he turned red and we both laughed. 

Walt George, Paul Davis, Mike Aloe and I shared an interest in the Civil War. We took half a vacation day to meet up at a bar in Detroit for a trip to a four-story used bookstore called King’s. Walt told us that it had great books on every subject under the sun. Mike was a little late. That was okay because the bar had a friendly atmosphere and Walt and Paul were in great form swapping stories that kept us thoroughly entertained. The barmaid knew Walt. He claimed that every barmaid in the metropolitan area knew him. We didn’t doubt him.  

When Mike showed up we were having too much fun to leave right away. Mike made it even better. He, too, was a great storyteller with a keen sense of humor. We hated to leave. When we got to the bookstore we went nuts with the treasures we found there for next to nothing and didn’t want to leave the bookstore. Paul invited us to his home for dinner. We hesitated because he had not given his wife prior notice. But when we got there she welcomed us, prepared a tasty meal and we had such a good time that we didn’t want to leave…. 

I can’t think of anyone that I didn’t get along with in Small Car/Luxury, which was now called Mid-sized/Specialty Car. Pete Gardnyck, with whom I worked in Tuck, was a Vietnam vet who’d seen far more combat than I did. I was having nightmares about one of my combat experiences and tried to get him to open up about his. He always shrugged it off with a joke. He preferred to talk about books and movies. I saw the movie Alien and read the book Shogun on his recommendation. One Veterans Day, he surprised me by inviting me to a bar for beer and hamburgers.  

Dianne Frank and I became closer when we worked on a wheel program with Lynn Elledge and Mike Aloe. Lynn sold his wheel. Diane sold hers. I sold mine. Mike made such a mess out of his that it had to be abandoned but he did it in a way that was so funny – with more clay on him and on the floor than on the job – that nobody held it against him.  

Not everything in Small Car was rosy. Some of the modelers would smile in Dianne’s face and tear her down behind her back even as they consumed the home-baked goodies she frequently brought in to share with the troops. When they did that to her I had to wonder what they said about me behind my back. 

Walt George, a woman in her early 30s named Gayle Castleman and a man his late 50s named Jack Steele were the people I worked with the most in the studio. I never heard anyone utter a negative word about Gayle or Jack.  

The downside for Gayle was that some modelers insisted on comparing her only to Dianne Frank by name and other female modelers in general.  The same guys compared me only to Charles Purnell by name and other black modelers in general. Men who didn’t see themselves as sexist or racist indulged in that subtle exhibition of sexism and racism every day.  

Some eyes might have been opened when a man from Ford Public Relations came into the studio looking for two people to photograph for “snapshots” that Henry Ford II wanted to take with him to China. This joker didn’t have enough sense to pretend that he hadn’t pre-selected Gayle and me – the only blonde female in the studio and the only black male. He seemed to think that we would be thrilled to have our pictures in “The Duce’s” wallet instead of appalled that we were going to be used for propaganda to show how open Ford was to blacks and women. He told us to wear bright-colored clothes for the photographer who was coming in the next day and to smile.  

Gail did wear bright clothes the next day. I didn’t. Neither of us smiled when we posed as though we were scraping on a job that someone else did and white guys pretended to work in the background. I hated myself for doing it and promised myself that I would never do it again. 

Amazingly, several modelers bitterly complained that Ford showed favoritism to blacks and women for allowing us to appear in the picture instead of the men who had actually done the job we posed in front of.  Walt George just shook his head for the same reason that Gayle and I could not force ourselves to smile. Jack Steele thought that the whole act was so grotesquely propagandistic that he couldn’t stop laughing.  

I have no idea what came of that picture. I tried not to think about it…. 

When you work in the same place for a couple of years with more good times than bad ones and good prospects ahead it’s like the time I spent with Walt, Paul and Mike at the bar, the bookstore and Paul’s home. You don’t want to leave. That’s how it was with me in Mid-sized Car. 

The best thing about Small Car/Luxury-Mid-sized/Specialty at that time was the absence of Fritz Mayhew and Dave Turner. Fritz had moved up to a position in the Large Car studio between Studio Exec and Director. He now had an office on Mahogany Row. Dave Turner was the lead Design Manager in Large Car. From the looks of things they had both been transferred to a sinking ship. 

Large Car was directly across the courtyard from Small Car. It was supposed to be Ford’s answer to a new program announced by GM called Saturn, which promised a revolutionary way to design and manufacture cars. The Ford program had the code name “Alpha.” We didn’t know what GM was doing with Saturn but it was easy to see from the Alpha model that someone foolishly brought to the courtyard that Alpha was shaping up as a disaster. In the nearly two years of its existence it had succeed in producing a potato.  

I felt sorry for the people who worked in that studio before Turner got there. I felt doubly sorry for them when he arrived. I should have saved my condolences for myself. Before the year was out Personnel sent four more modelers to Alpha, all from Small Car, Mike Aloe, Fred Towark, Leonard Testagusa and me.   

Strick told me that he wanted to keep me. I’d never known him to say anything that he didn’t mean so I had no reason to doubt his word. Fritz could have handpicked anybody from Small Car/Luxury that he wanted and he would have backed anyone that Dave Turner wanted. It was for damn sure that neither of them asked for me. Jack Telnack, who had succeeded Gene Bordinat, could have had anybody in the Design Center.

So, what was the deal with me? Alpha was bigger than any individual. The tealeaves said that it could make or break the company. At least that’s what my tealeaves told me because the other models we had in the pipeline for ’83, ’84, and ’85 weren’t going to be enough to cut it.  

The Pinto and the Maverick were bad memories. The Product Planners were still taking money out of the Continental and the Town Car. The Mustang was sure to enjoy a long ride but the Probe looked like it was designed to compete with it.  The newly designed T-bird was no longer the boxy disaster that its predecessor had been under Gene Bordinat’s direction but it had an obvious flaw – huge taillights that lit up only on the corners.  There wasn’t enough difference in full-sized Fords and their Mercury counterparts to justify the difference in price. Ditto the mid-sized Ford’s and Mercurys. The kindest thing you could say about the “new” sporty Escort EXP with it high Escort doors was that it was a wasted effort – a Concord that had been tuned into a Gremlin.  

Another feature of the EXP that everyone I talked to was certain to kill it was the “frog-eye” that Gene Bordinat gave to the headlight profile shortly before he retired in 1980. I’ll never forget that episode. He stood like a king with his face forward and raised his hand inexplicably to one side as if gripping something invisible. I watched his performance from the modelers’ room as a couple of Directors, the Studio Exec, some Managers and designers fidgeted, looking at each other for a hint of what he expected them to do.  

Nothing else happened for at least a minute. Nobody said a word. Suddenly the aimless fidgeting took direction as someone figured out the answer to Bordinat’s game of motionless charades. Ron Steffee and Bud Magauldi bolted from the group toward the modeler’s room. Ron had the look of a man bordering on panic. “Coffee he said.” Mr. Bordinat needs a cup of coffee!” 

The modelers around the coffee pot, including me, looked at Ron as though he had lost his mind along with his dignity. Lynn Elledge, who ran the coffee club, made him pay for the coffee. With trembling hands Ron poured the coffee and carried it back with packets of cream, sugar and sugar substitute. He put the paper cup in Bordinat’s hand. Bordinat gripped it and smiled. The official show began. 

Gene Bordinat never lifted the cup to his lips…. 

Everyone knew that Bordinat was going to retire soon and that Jack Telnack and Gail Halderman the Mustang/Advanced Luxury Director were in a tight race to succeed him. It would not surprise me to learn that Bordinat chose Telnack over Halderman because Jack was the one who figured out the answer to his game of charades. The fortunes of Ford salary employees at every level sometimes turned on less valid tests.   

My first year in Alpha was an exercise in unproductive labor for twelve hours a day, four days a week, eight hours on Friday and five hours on Saturday. I was working for some of the same people I’d worked with before and going around in more circles than I had ever gone around in. Jim McBain, the Clay Modeling Manager I started with in ’77 was once again my Clay Modeling Manager. Although a man named Ray Everts was the Studio Executive, his boss was my former Studio Executive Fritz Mayhew. Dave Turner was one of two Design Managers, the men who made the hour-by-hour changes in design. Turner’s role in the operation, all by itself, guaranteed that we wouldn’t begin to get anything done until someone set a date for completion.  

A bright spot for me in the designer lineup was my old friend Nehemiah Amaker. This was the first time I’d ever been assigned to a studio in Ford Motor Co. with another black professional and so far Nehemiah was the only one who had made visible contributions to the program. He designed the headlights and taillights for the Ford and the Mercury that would become the ’86 Ford Taurus and the Mercury Sable. Between the front and rear of both vehicles we still had a potato.  

Two of the biggest contributions to the program’s eventual success came from Jack Telnack and Ray Everts.  

Jack determined that the Ford and the Mercury would have distinctive identities apart from their front and rear ends. The Ford would have the Ford oval as an integral part of the design and the Mercury would have a new emblem, a stylized “M” that we would come to call “the flying M.” The body sides would be similar enough to tell that they belonged in the same family but different enough to tell them apart at a glance.  

Ray Everts had a background in engineering and three innovation awards to his credit, which enabled him to hold Engineering’s feet to the fire. His insistence on keeping everything we did in clay within two millimeters of our mechanical drawings from start to finish insured that we didn’t stray too far from packaging and manufacturing requirements. To keep up with the constant changes he set up a feasibility model in the studio. Whenever Telnack, Mayhew and Everts agreed on a change it would go directly into the feas model. 

The weak point in the operation was management’s failure to let the modelers know what it was trying to do with the surfaces and allowing us to do it. Everts and Turner micro-managed every pound of clay we put on and took off to meet weekly shows. We had shows for senior management; Lou Veraldi Alpha’s Chief Engineer, Fritz Mayhew, his boss Bob Zokus, his boss Jack Telnack, and for Ford’s number two and number three VP’s Lou Ross and Red Poling.  

Sometimes the shooters come in together. Sometimes we had shows for them individually – a Mayhew show, a Zokus show, etc. All of the shows chopped up time into weekly segments that didn’t give anyone enough time to do his best work. Simple mistakes that would have been caught and corrected on a longer timeline became the bathwater that a lot of babies got tossed out with. First-class design ideas that came too late in the week to be fully developed fell victim to second-class modeling.   

No matter what Turner and Everts agreed on Fritz made a radical change. Bob Zokus only hurt us in the sense that we had to waste time creating obvious “problem areas” for him to “fix” to keep him from doing anything significant. For reasons I can’t begin to explain Jack Telnack seemed generally pleased with the way design was going. His biggest complaint was with the quality of the modeling. He got so upset with the modeling of a Mercury body side that he ordered the modeler – a terrific Sculptor named Al Kalfin – off of the job. 

All of us knew that the problem wasn’t with Al, it was with Dave Turner, Fritz Mayhew, Jack Telnack, and Red Poling. Red Poling visited the studio often and every show for him was a full dressed show. Not only the models had to be dressed up, the studio had to be dressed up, too. The process of getting the models ready generated an unbelievable amount of trash. The cleaners had to pick up the discarded paper, Di-Noc and foil, scrape the floors, buff them and remove the trash bins. The modelers scrubbed the surface plates and bridges. Stripping off the paint and foil to start again ate up more time. In short, nothing productive got done before, during and after the show. 

Red Poling didn’t share Jack’s enthusiasm about Alpha. He didn’t share Jack’s background in design, either. To some extent he had to trust that Jack knew what he was doing. Maybe Alpha was on the right track but Poling couldn’t see it. He was getting optimistic reports from his middle managers that didn’t add up. The company was in deep trouble on a number of fronts and it appeared to him that Alpha was one of them. 

Following the example of Lou Ross, Red Poling asked to meet with a cross section of GSR employees in various Ford instillations. The Design Center’s Personnel office selected ten people to sit with the number three VP at a round table in a smaller conference room. Four of us had been on the Lou Ross panel: Cyndy Dilworth the executive secretary, Joe Warren the engineer, Bill Wight and I the returning modelers. Conspicuously absent were the Design Center’s Personnel rep and the designers who participated in the previous discussion with Lou Ross. Poling brought his own Personnel man with him from the Glass House. The differences between this meeting and the one with Lou Ross couldn’t have been more striking.  

Lou Ross made it clear from the start that the long table with him sitting at the head of it meant what it appeared to mean. It was communication from the top down – a general briefing of the troops with little interest in gathering significant information from the battle lines. He sat back in his chair puffing on his cigar, telling us how things were with the company and how things were going to be. A free exchange of ideas was not on the agenda and every effort to bring up the issues we thought were important were met with pat answers that either sidestepped the point or cut off discussion. Red Poling, on the other hand, started the meeting by having all of us introduce ourselves by name and occupation. He gave us a brief summery of the company’s challenges as he saw them and opened the floor for us to do the same. 

My enthusiasm took a dip at the start when an engineer named Don said how happy he was to attend a class established by the company that taught him the principles of leadership and problem analysis. He rattled off things I learned fifteen years earlier as an acting corporal in the Army Reserves and as a model-making ten-yearr-old. Red Poling was a former officer in the United States Marines so I knew that he wasn’t impressed. Other members of the panel gave similar glowing reports on whatever class it was that Don was talking about and how wonderful it was that the Senior VP would meet with us.  

I was appalled at the way our time was being squandered. Poling’s body language let me know that he was thrilled about it, either. He had told us that the Japanese were beating our pants off in inventory management and product development lead-time. He was concerned about the progress of the new full-sized cars, which he told us frankly could make or break the company. Looking past the merit increase freeze, he wanted to reward the best workers without necessarily making them leaders. He was talking about the Peter Principle, the tendency to promote competent workers until they reached a level of incompetence and stayed there.  

The happy talk didn’t address any of Poling’s concerns. He and his Personnel man sat back listening politely with their eyes glazing over. Oh my God, I thought, we’re losing him. He thinks we’re a bunch of nodding heads. I knew that wasn’t true but the tone set by Don the engineer and followed up on by others made it impossible to dance to another tune without stepping on someone’s toes. I decided to take a risk. 

I said that I was impressed with the size of the room, the number of participants and the shape of the table. I knew the vital importance of these things by studying nonverbal communication, how spatial arrangements and the number of participants in a group affected the flow of ideas. The reaction I feared came from a designer named Dennis and a Metal Shop guy named Mike who rolled their eyes and grumbled as though I was bringing up something so silly that it demeaned the entire group. Other members of the group frowned, wrinkled their noses or stared at me blankly. Joe Warren’s eyes lit up. Red Poling and his Personnel man looked at each other then leaned forward and looked at me. For the first time they seemed interested in what they were doing.  

The Personnel man asked me why I thought the things I mentioned were significant. He started scribbling notes as I told him. He and Poling again exchanged looks and smiled with visible relief and interest. Bill Weight surprised me by agreeing wholeheartedly with me and adding his feelings about how the size of the conference room and the shape of the table had inhibited the discussion with Lou Ross. He added that Lou Ross took up most of the time talking and that he was pleased to see that Poling was listening. Joe Warren agreed with Bill. He said that he could tell that the meeting was designed to be a serious exchange of ideas just by walking in the room and looking around. He segued into the problems created all around by dishonest power games and micromanagement.  

From there, the discussion took on a life of its own with a young designer name Vic Nacif leading the way.   

I’d met Vic in Small Car when he first came to work for Ford as an award-winning graduate of the Center for Creative Studies. He didn’t believe me when I told him that company politics would have more to do with his success than his ability as a designer. I told him that if he wasn’t a Mason, if he didn’t own a sailboat docked with Jack Telnack’s at the Detroit Yacht Club and he wasn’t otherwise connected to the movers and shakers in Design he had an uphill climb. He was going to draw pictures that would be used as wallpaper and if he conceived a design that was too good for his lowly status Dave or Fritz would kill it in the womb.  

Vic argued that I had to be wrong in his case, because it didn’t make sense for the company to recruit the best designer it could find and not to use him. After three years of fruitless struggling to show what he could do he discovered that I was right. That’s what he told Red Poling.  

The Personnel man scribbled notes nonstop as Joe Warren chimed in with his observation about the poor quality of the models he saw in the Large Car studio. He said that he didn’t work there but he had worked with modelers long enough to know that they weren’t being given the opportunity to do what they could do. He said that if they were turned loose they would solve the surface development problems because they were the best qualified to do it. Neither Bill Weight nor I could have said that without coming off like self-promoters. Coming from a highly respected veteran engineer it packed a punch.  

I was hoping that Vic, Dennis, Don, Mike or one of the drafting people would back him up. That didn’t happen. Dennis disagreed with Joe. He said that the answer was with letting the designers design. Mike went one step further by saying that the Metal Shop was where things really got done in the Design Center and the skill of the modelers was overrated. Bill and I challenged him. No one else said anything.  

Poling’s Personnel man stopped writing. The debate itself nearly sank our ship. Polling gave the old “everybody is important” speech and turned the conversation to other issues. While he was doing that I was wracking my brain for a way to get back in the race with the crucial issues that Vic and Joe had identified before Dennis and Mike knocked the baton out of Joe’s hand.  

To give myself a chance to think I asked Poling about the efficient “just-in-time” processes that the Japanese used to get parts to their assembly plants instead of stockpiling parts the way we did. Poling went into the kind of detail with his answer that identified the problem well enough to identify the solution. The product development process is where he was clearly out of his depth. When he strayed into that area it gave me a chance to pick up the baton and run with it.  

I had a two-minute speech for just this occasion that I had polished and practiced for days to use when I could make it sound spontaneous. When Vic and Joe said what they did, I didn’t think that I would have to use it at all. The remarks made by Mike and Dennis put the speech on the front burner again but I couldn’t work it in until Poling said something about product development that showed his fatal ignorance.   

I said that I worked on the Alpha project and that my observations were the same as Joe’s and Vic’s but that Dennis was right about designers not getting a chance to design. Poling chafed at the word “Alpha” but as I started to elaborate he and his Personnel man exchanged excited glances and the Personnel man started scribbling again. I said that none of us could do what we knew how to because there were too many shows that set us back whenever we started to make progress. I said that the designers didn’t have time between shows to design, the modelers didn’t have time to design and the engineers didn’t have time to engineer.     

This was something that everyone could agree with.  

Poling and his Personnel man asked me a series of question about why I thought that the frequent shows, especially the full-dress shows for upper management were so harmful. The answers were easy and several people joined in to list them from their particular professional perspectives

Bill Weight gave the best example by asking Poling if he thought that the studio always looked as nice and neat as it did when we had a show for him. Bill’s question took him aback and he admitted that he did think that the studio always appeared the way he saw it. A couple of people looked horrified. The rest of us either smiled or laughed out loud.  

Bill explained that clay modeling generated massive amounts of trash and getting the studio prepared for a show was as much a chore as preparing the models. He explained that the Di-Noc, which made the models look as though they were painted, were cut from long, wide sheets with heavy paper backing. He explained that they had to be soaked in long, shallow pans of hot water to peal off the backing and make them pliable. He explained that the waist products from all the materials used to make the models look their best made the studio look its worst and that we had to stop doing everything creative to showcase the models and the studio. He suggested to Poling that if he wanted to see the real design process he should drop in one day unannounced. 

The meeting lasted well over the allotted time. The women did not bring up issues involving gender and I did not bring up issues involving race. We tried to stick to the issues Poling talked about in his opening remarks. For the most part we succeeded.  

The only thing Poling said that made me uneasy about his sincerity was the bit about seeking ways to reward exceptional workers without bringing them into supervision. As Poling was a former serviceman, that should have been an easy one. The military had two classes of enlisted people, a command class that went from E-4 to E-9 and a parallel specialist class. There was no reason that Ford couldn’t give its best workers who topped out at pay grade six or seven in their area of expertise as much money as its highest paid eights. It seemed to me that the company was already doing it before the freeze on merit increases.  

In some areas of the company pay grade sixes were supervisors and pay grade eights were just highly skilled workers. I knew at least two Master Modelers who did fantastic work but flatly refused to take on leadership responsibility. Both of them were on the highest end of the fourth quarter of the pay table. That is, they were at the top. If you were in the first quarter of your pay grade you were at the bottom. If you were in the second quarter you were below mid-point. The third quarter put you over the mid-point. I was in the first quarter of Sculptor, pay grade 7. No black modeler ever reached the top… but we weren’t discussing color. 

The meeting with Red Poling brought about dramatic changes in the way things got done in the Alpha Studio, a.k.a., Large Car. Polling dropped in unannounced, looked around and left. The weekly shows stopped. The managers and the studio exec walked on eggshells at first but everyone else was more relaxed. We played more and we experimented more.

When work became too tedious a modeler, a designer or a draftsman would call for a “jingle” and a bunch of us would play a game of matching coins. The game had one looser who had to buy coffee for the others out of a machine in the basement of the other building and carry it back to the studio in a bright yellow plastic bucket. It took a little guts to play because nobody wanted to carry the bucket. But we played so often that eventually everyone had to.  

Nehemiah quit playing because he lost so much. I don’t think the bucket bothered him as much as the money he had to spend on the coffee. I know that seems odd considering how much money he spent on gas without a second thought to pick me up and take me home when we were in Schiloff’s school together. With few exceptions designers were notorious penny-pinchers. That’s probably the reason that some of them never played the game. I mention the penny-pinching because it was a designer trait that cut across racial, sexual, political and religious lines. Mimi Vandermolen was Ford’s only female designer at the time but she had it too. I called it “designer genes.” 

You might think that the “jingles” took away from our productivity but it didn’t. It was a little thing to look forward to, which made it fun to come to work. The more fun we had the better work we did. After one of the jingles it occurred to me that that I could do some things faster and better if I could slice the roles of tape I wanted to use into strips of various non-standard widths. I made a tape slicer that worked and later refined it so that it worked simpler and better. I also figured out how to put a brush on the end of a plastic bottle to apply turpentine to clay moldings in a way that scored the clay for a secure bond and didn’t spill the turps when it was accidentally tipped over.  

Frank DeBono’s brother Vic was a big help to me with the tape slicer and the turps bottle. He tried them out and used them enough to let me know how to refine them. Eventually the turps bottles became as common in every studio as any piece of standard equipment. The jingles didn’t inspire these ideas or turn them into reality. They did more than that. They helped to create the atmosphere that made them possible.  

The new, relaxed atmosphere of the studio encouraged innovations of all kinds from anyone, not just the pay grade eights and above. If anyone had an idea, no matter goofy it seemed to be, the usual response was, “Try it and see what happens,” instead of, “No, that’s not the way we do it.” The way we decided on our body side designs is a case in point…. 

You may have heard that the original Taurus design was so advanced that it took time to grown on people. The “potato” became a “jellybean” and the jellybean became a car shape that people began to appreciate.  That’s not true. The design changed from a potato, to a jellybean to a hell of a trend-setting car because a designer finally told a modeler the objective and the modeler made it happen. 

Bud Magauldi was the designer.  

I was the modeler. 

The standard way of putting in a body side with common features through the doors was a throwback to the 1950s. One or more designers would draw typical door sections of various proposals. A modeler would cut Masonite templates from those sections and drag them into the clay next to each other in swatches about a foot wide. The Designers, the Managers, the Studio Exec and sometimes Fritz or Jack, in various combinations or all together, would decide on the best section. A modeler would then put that section in between the front and real wheel and marry it into the finder and rear quarter. The “marrying” process lasted anywhere from a day or two to several months – however long it took to discover that it wasn’t going to work. 

We were restarting this ridiculous process after a year of failure when Bud handed me a section for the Ford and told me the intent of the design. He understood it perfectly and explained it that way. The idea was to take a wedge shape, which we had on the billboard tape drawing and renderings, and sculpt it with rounded forms that flowed from end to end and top to bottom.  

Fritz had explained part of this to Steve Kocsis, the modeler who was trying to work out the fender, in terms of a smooth stone, shaped for eons by a running stream. Ray Everts had tried to get the idea across to every modeler who worked on the body side by pointing to a tapeline on the billboard drawing that was supposed to represent a highlight. Because of the package points we had to keep at the base of the A-pillar, the front door and the front wheel lip this was mathematically impossible. All efforts along these lines were therefore doomed from the start. 

Bud’s explanation of the overall design intent allowed me see precisely where the problem was and what to do about it.  

The glass planes and the widest point of the car that we were stuck with ruled out a seamless blend from roof to rocker panel. But we could create the same feel by getting the body side to flow from beltline to rocker and the greenhouse to flow from the roof to the beltline. The key was to concentrate first on the body side, to establish a core line in the plan view (top view) from the front of the car to the rear and adjusting all of the other surfaces to meet it.

I had already cut out the template for Bud’s vertical body side section so when I established the horizontal strip from front to rear I could see immediately why it would have never worked. I could also see what Bud was trying to do and adjust the shape accordingly. In about two hours I had the sculptural foundations in place for the Ford, which would become the Taurus as well as the Mercury, which would become the Sable. It took three years to get this far but now that we knew how to do it the rest was easy.  

It might seem as though the “little things” that led to that Thursday afternoon breakthrough are insignificant. They were, in fact, crucial.  

Before the Poling meeting we would have been cleaning up for a Friday morning show at the time Bud handed me the section and told me what the designers were trying to do. Turner, Everts and Fritz would have insisted on spotting in several test strips and picking one instead of backing off and allowing Bud and me to do our jobs the best that we knew how. If Everts hadn’t been so strict about sticking to the “hard points” and the Studio Engineer Bob Coslowski hadn’t been brilliant, imaginative and honest, we could have gone in circles for another three years. If Steve Kocsis hadn’t allowed me to move into his territory or my Master Modeler Ray Compau, had pulled me off of the job for not following instructions there would have been no Taurus and no Sable. 

The breakthrough came toward the end of the workday. I’ll never know if Bud and I would have been able to carry it off by ourselves because of something I did as an insurance policy to keep our body side from reverting to a potato. I played a little studio politics…. 

The point on the body side that gives everybody fits is just below the base of the A-pillar. That’s because the surfaces change direction rather abruptly at that point in two perpendicular views, which can leave you with a nasty looking highlight. I learned how to get around that problem when I was at American Motors by establishing the service in plan view at that point first and working forward and back from there. Ray Compau stood close to me and watched me like a hawk as I worked. I knew that he didn’t think much of me as a modeler at that time. I suspected that he was waiting for me to screw up big time and wanted to be there to save the model when I did. However, as I worked and he observed, I could see the light go on in his eyes. He saw where I was headed. 

Ray Campau was a terrific modeler. He would have been a great Master Modeler for rookies but some experienced modelers had a tough time working for him because he usually led you around by the hand. He set you up to do things his way. If your approach was different from his the result was usually sub-par and he had to step in to get it right. The moment I saw that Campau was in tune with what I was doing I knew that he would let me finish the job on overtime. I did not have the same confidence in Dave Turner or Ray Everts. They were likely to wipe out everything I did without looking at it just because they didn’t see Chuck Beadreu or one of their other star modelers doing it. Compau was one of their star modelers. So I left the surface a little raged, where it wouldn’t hurt, and went home confident that Compau would do the rest. He did. 

The potato had become a car that kept getting better and better.  

Meanwhile, Jeff Teague, the son of AM’s Dick Teague, was designing a new kind of station wagon with less emphases on utility and more emphasis on style. The Taurus wagon became such a hit that many people who could afford a BMW bought Jeff’s wagon for its looks alone. 

In retrospect you can see why the Taurus, the Sable and the wagon were successful. When we were honing those designs in ’83 and ’84 the public’s acceptance of them was an open question. A sore point for me then and now is how the idea developed that the design grew on people in the Design Center instead of recognizing when and how it changed. The new direction that Bud and I set was simply absorbed into the corporate consciousness as an evolution of Jack Telnack’s vision.  

The most irksome thing to me about the way nearly everyone’s role in the project except Jack’s and the Chief Engineer Lou Veraldi’s got erased was a pivotal episode near the launch date. When the Taurus tested badly in a California survey Jack stormed into the showroom where the designers and modelers were looking at a Taurus and an Audi side-by-side, and blasted Ray Everts for his poor design. He ranted about how bad Everts had made him look and hinted that Red Poling was partly to blame for barring him from the studio for so long.  

Eventually Jack cooled down and did what he had to do. He said that it was too late to change and accepted full responsibility for the outcome.  

In the coming months it was clear to nearly everyone that the California survey was fatally flawed and we had a winner. The blame game turned into the credit game. People started coming out of the woodwork to take credit for our great new cars and the way they were developed. Dave Turner, Ray Everts and Jeff Teague got some public credit but not as much as they deserved. Nehemiah Amaker got none. Bud Magualdi got none. Bob Coslowski got none. The modelers got no individual recognition and no one below pay grade 8 got any.  

The most important thing we accomplished was not the cars but the know-how. We launched the cars and scrapped the know-how.