The Art of the Automobile

Supporting art education is important – after all, some of the world’s most talented artists create the world’s most stunning automobiles.

General Motors is proud to both sponsor and support the Rush Philanthrophic Arts Foundation and its annual “Art for Life” gala event held this coming Saturday, July 26, in Bridgehampton, NY.  The event celebrates the creative energy of New York City Youth.  The foundation and the Art for Life celebration expose inner city youth to art, and provide them with art education. Toddlers, teens, and children of all ages get a chance to let their creative sides flourish while developing collaboration and communication skills.

In a way, all the men and women who design, engineer, and build Buick, Chevrolet, GMC, and Cadillac automobiles are true artisans of the auto making craft. But the talented individuals of GM’s Global Design organization are truly fine artists in their own right.  To understand this, just take a look at their sketches, paintings, and renderings they produce daily in the process of designing a new vehicle.

We asked Christo Datini, the lead archivist at the General Motors Heritage Center, to showcase several outstanding examples of automotive artwork produced by GM designers throughout the years. We sincerely hope children enrolled in Rush programs will one day add to this collection.

1950 Cadillac Coupe de Sabre Proposal

Exterior Design Proposal by Pete Wozena

General Motors Designer, 1939-1974

1950 Cadillac Coupe de Sabre Proposal

21.75 x 21.75”, watercolor on black artist paper

From the collection of Jean S. And Frederic Sharf



Like much of the artwork done by young automotive designers during the post-war period, this rendering by Pete Wozena is greatly influenced by the jet airplane. Cadillac had recently adopted the tailfin as part of its design language but here they are much more pronounced and sit atop fuselage-inspired rear fenders which are finished off by jet-trail like exhaust fumes. The jet age influence would find its ultimate expression GM’s legendary concept vehicle, the similarly named Le Sabre which debuted in late 1950.


1965 Cadillac

Exterior Design Proposal by Don McElfish

General Motors Designer, 1956-1987

1965 Cadillac Don McElfish Collection

16 x 24.75”; Prismacolor pencil on Canson paper

From the collection of Don McElfish



Exaggerated details and perspectives are very typical of design sketches. Elements of the design are often overstated to highlight a theme a designer is trying to sell to his leadership. In this rendering, the exaggerated vertical grille acts as the focal point and harkens back to similar treatments found on the luxurious Cadillacs of the 1930s.


1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

Exterior Design Illustration by John Perkins

General Motors Designer, 1962-1999

1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

16 x 20”, Black and white gouache on blue illustration board

From the collection of John Perkins



This illustration depicts the Chevelle SS396 almost exactly as it would have appeared driving away from the dealership in 1969. Complete renderings like this were not executed during the design process but were often created by designers after a vehicle’s design was finalized for various communications purposes. This particular illustration was done for a special insert in Automotive Industries magazine that showcased GM’s passenger car line-up for 1969.


1975 Pontiac Grand Prix

Exterior Design Proposal by Geza Loczi

General Motors Designer, 1965-1980

1975 Pontiac Grand Prix Exterior design proposal


8.5 x 11”; Pen and ink, dry marker, pencil on paper

From the collection of Geza Loczi


During the design process, dozens of ideas are drawn and modeled by a design team before a final production version is selected. This design sketch shows an unused variation on the front fascia treatment of the 1975 Pontiac Grand Prix. The elongated horizontal grille, headlamp and bumper treatments depicted here differ from those that were eventually implemented on the production Grand Prix.


1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy Concept

Exterior Design Proposal by Tom Peters

General Motors Designer, 1962-1999

1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy Concept

10.5 x 18.5”; Pen, marker, pencil, paint on illustration board

From the collection of John Perkins

GM DESIGN ARCHIVE & Special Collections


Chevrolet unveiled the mid-engine Corvette Indy at the Detroit Auto Show in January 1986 as a test bed for advanced technologies and components that would appear on future production vehicles. This concept drawing depicts the Corvette Indy as a race car in the pit. While this car concept never actually raced, Chevy powered race cars continue to dominate the INDY and CART race track, thanks to advances that first came to life on a sketch pad, long before the production line.


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