Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 26th September 2017

Designer Of The Day is a segment that focuses on famous car designers and looks at what they’ve accomplished. American designer Gordon Buehrig came in at a time when building cars was more about artistry than quick production. He was responsible for extravagant vehicles like the Duesenberg J and Cord 810/812.

Early life

Born in 1904, Buehrig grew up in Mason City, Illinois. His love for cars developed early, inspiring Buehrig and his brother to buy a 1904 Orient Buckboard together when the former was 14. He was expelled from college for drawing car designs on his notebook during a chemistry class. Buehrig left for Detroit and worked for General Motors, Packard and Stutz.

Car design career

Buehrig developed his theory of design by reading Towards a New Architecture by the French modernist Le Corbusier. He said “that helped me formulate my theory of design. Never do anything without a good reason to do it. A beautiful automobile gets its form from its function.”

Buehrig became Chief Designer for Stutz in 1929 and created bodies for the Stutz Black Hawks entered at Le Mans. From there he quickly transitioned to Chief Designer at Duesenberg and worked on the Model J.

In 1934, Buehrig was asked to work on the Auburn 851 Boattail Speedster. His success led him to design the 810 Cord, which proved to be one of his most innovative creations. The car featured retractable headlights, a rear hinged bonnet and a radiator that wasn’t visible. Ultimately, these elements were adopted more widely by the rest of the industry.

In 1949, Buehrig joined Ford and his projects included the 1951 Victoria Coupe and 1956 Continental Mark II. During this period he continued to innovate, designing a concept for a two-engine vehicle that was similar to modern hybrid cars.

Later years

Buehrig retired from Ford in 1965 and went on to teach a new generation of car designers at the Arts Centre College of Design in California. In 1979, he produced his final design, which was the Buehrig Motor Car, a limited-production carriage roof coupe.

He died at the age of 85 but his legacy as one of the greatest car designers of the 20th century endures.