In the fifties and early sixties,
car designs were perhaps at their most dramatic,
with acres of chrome and fins that went on forever.
So dramatic were the styles, and futuristic were
the car concepts that in America in particular,
even kids were excited about the new car designs.
Under the direction of Harley Earl, the Fisher
Body Craftsman's Guild, subsidized by General
Motors, was a national competition to help focus
that energy and give teenagers an outlet for their
car designing enthusiasm. The competition flourished
in the fifties and sixties by offering scholarships
for building scale model dream cars. Created for
high school seniors to challenge their imaginations,
Fisher Body helped these young engineers and designers
shape the look of the future. The Craftsman's
Guild aimed to shape young candidates into fine
craftsmen, mature and stable, the well-mannered
"Fisher Boys" would stand as pillars
of the community.
The Male Technical Domain
The legacy of the Fisher Body Craftsman's
Guild is one of stimulating, enabling and rewarding
creativity and craftsmanship. The Guild strove
to mold high school seniors into strong, bold
and creative engineers and designers with their
sights on a future as General Motors employees.
Young adults embraced the challenge and rewards
set forth by the Guild during the post-war period,
exemplified by the fact that during the fifties,
only the Boy Scouts of America had a larger membership.
As noble an accomplishment as this may seem, it
is also true that there was no place in the Guild
for the female designer or craftsperson. When
one looks back at the promotional material General
Motors and the Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild used
to attract members, it is a sad reminder of why
women are a scarce minority in engineering and
other technological fields today. The attitude
of the Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild's toward
women eventually evolved, if only in it's experimental
European program, with the co-educational Opel
Modellbauer Gilde in West Germany remaining active
from 1965 to 1976.
How to Build a Model Car
Initially, as the Fisher Body Club developed,
auto mockups were crudely sculpted or carved in
wood or clay, often with simple details. Starting
with a set of wheels mounted on axles, to which
they would apply a large wad of modeling clay,
young designers were left up to their own creative
devices to fashion their scale model dream cars.
Those who had some experience with crafting models,
perhaps referring to drawings they had created,
managed to sculpt inspired designs that exhibited
a high degree of craftsmanship. In depth building
instructions were not available and assistance
of former contestants was not available. GM reasoned
that given little to go on, contestants would
have to dredge up solutions by themselves, as
a form of creative stimulation.
The End of the Line - The
Guild Receives the Axe.
By the mid sixties, designs were more futuristic,
clean, and exhibited the highest level of craftsmanship.
These young designers were producing professional
quality mockups using the same techniques as actual
automotive designers. By 1968, the Fisher Body
Craftsman's Guild ended its scholarship program
and competition for financial reasons. The US
Craftsman's Guild held a reunion in 2004, with
many of the attending adult members currently
working in the field of automotive engineering
The Guild's Influence on the
Until teenage boys discovered the Fisher Body
Craftsman's Guild, many only had the fleeting
satisfaction of making their futuristic sketches
in school notebooks, or in the margins of text
books. The Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild served
as an enabler, mentor, and bridge to the future
for youth inspired by automotive design. Today,
powerful technological tools including the computer,
the Internet, and 3-D imaging software enable
anyone with an interest in engineering or design
to create and show their concepts to millions
of other enthusiasts, and potential employers.
Anyone old enough to hold a mouse or operate a
Wacom Tablet can stand on the shoulders of the
Fisher Boys and begin to design their own futures.