Leland Chapter, Detroit met at the First United Methodist Church in Royal Oak on Saturday afternoon, August 24th, 2018. Some 20 members and guests heard a talk by Brian Baker about George Levy’s new book F1 Mavericks: The Men and Machines that Revolutionized Formula 1 Racing.
A memorabilia swap & exchange took place before and after, with attendees shifting their surplus books and paper memorabilia from one household to another.
The EyesOn Design Lecture Series of the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology and the Leland Chapter, Detroit of the Society of Automotive Historians co-hosted a panel discussion featuring author Constance Smith and designer MaryEllen Green and on Friday, June 8, 2018 in the Peacock Room of the Fisher Building in downtown Detroit.
Hosted by Leland Chapter President Brian Baker, and moderated by Elizabeth Wetzel, GM Director of Design User Experience, the forty attendees were treated to an exceptional ninety minute panel discussion, conversation and question & answer session.
Constance Smith is the author of the recently published book, Damsels in Design, which features MaryEllen among many other women designers of the era. A graduate of the Pratt Institute in New York, Smith was recruited by GM’s Charles “Chuck” Jordan. Her comprehensive automotive design and engineering experience included work in safety, advanced electronics and airbag implementation. Smith’s 2018 book Damsels in Design may come to be regarded as a benchmark in bringing the history of women in the automotive industry to light. Her book focuses on twenty women who were active in automotive design from 1939 to 1959 and presents their stories, frustrations and accomplishments, as well as their post-automotive design work and personal achievements in the arts. The staggering number of period images Smith collected for this book is a masterful accomplishment in itself.
MaryEllen Green (decd January, 2022) was a member of Harley Earl’s GM Styling group in the early 1950’s. Her father was a successful automobile dealer and distributor, so Green stemmed from automotive roots, which she considered to be a significant advantage in her early career. At GM she worked on concept cars, show cars and special projects. From GM Green moved to Sunberg-Ferar design, where she was loaned to Dick Teague’s design department at Packard to design the seats and interior panels for the 1955 Packard Caribbean. Green is one of the women featured in Part I of Smith’s book.
The late Margaret “Peggy” Sauer, one of the women featured in Part III of Smith’s book, joined GM Styling in 1955 in the Oldsmobile studio. She later worked in the Cadillac and Buick studios before joining Raymond Loewy’s Avanti Team. Her Oldsmobile concept car credits include the Mona Lisa, the Chantreuse, the Carousel and the Rendezvous. Sauer’s long time close friend, Julie Sabit, and Sabit’s nephew Doug Didia, a former GM Design studio artist from the Detroit area, had several examples of Sauer’s original automotive design artwork on display for the event. Sabit is the custodian of Sauer’s estate and archive.
Crain Communications, Automotive News and Autoweek to the likes of us, generously provided the “Women in Design” banner for this event. The Peacock Room, a Fisher Building retail space period renovation, was graciously made available for the event by shop owner Rachel Lutz.
Congratulations to the Leland Chapter, and to EyesOn Design of the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology, in partnering to support this exceptional event.
Twenty Seven enthusiasts were in attendance December 19, 2017 for a late afternoon/early evening presentation by George Levy on the Can-Am Race Series and on his 2016 book, Can-Am 50th Anniversary, with photos by famed racing photographer Pete Biro.
The Leland Chapter, Detroit held a gathering, building tour at the Durant-Dort Factory One building and a business meeting in Flint, Michigan on Saturday, June 17, 2017. Hosted by Factory One Operations Manager Kevin Kirbitz and his staff, over thirty chapter members and their guests were in attendance. Kevin gave the group a tour of the renovated and re-purposed Durant-Dort Factory One building and the renovated Durant-Dort Offices building across the street, which houses extensive displays of artifacts and photos. Greg Miller, Director of University Archives at Kettering University, gave a tour of the University archives now housed in the second story of the Factory One building. These two buildings were the original facilities of what was later to become General Motors.
Following lunch, organized by Leland Chapter Secretary/Treasurer Victoria Mobley, Kevin Kirbitz gave a presentation on the history of the immediate area and the Durant, Dort and GM presence in Flint. A chapter business meeting followed, with the momentous occasion of long-serving Leland Chapter President John “Top Hat” Jendza III handing over the reins (or, tiller/steering wheel) to his successor Brian Baker. Following the business meeting, retired GM Designer Bill Porter entertained attendees with his reminisces of his career at GM.
A special thanks to Victoria Mobley, Top Hat, Brian Baker, Kevin Kirbitz and Greg Miller for making this event a success.