Role Call

A woman’s place is in the… Design Studio.

Image: The author

Even now, well into the 21st century, the automotive industry and its related fields employ and attract more men than they do women, and the styling studios are no exception. There certainly has been a noticeable influx of women in the design departments over the past few decades: Anne Asensio, Marcy Fisher, Juliane Blasi and Michelle Christensen being a few latterday examples.

Wind back the clock some 90 years however and it was a different environment – and not just within the car industry. It took a determined and strong-willed woman to overcome the prejudice, condescendence, resistance and occasionally, outright hostility she would often confront if she dared enter an arena hitherto considered to be the sole domain of men.

Some of the women presented herein might appear a tad overdressed in period photographs, but it is important to remember that for male designers a suit and tie – as opposed to the black turtleneck and complex eyeglasses which seems to be the preferred uniform of late was for the most part of the past century the required attire. So, look past the glamour and meet a few pioneering women who cleared the path under at times, challenging conditions.

First in line in this broadly chronological overview, Dorothée Pullinger was admittedly neither a stylist nor designer in the classical sense but she did play an important role in the creation of the first car specifically aimed at woman drivers. Apart from that achievement, the eldest child of automotive engineer, Thomas Charles Pullinger had more talents on offer.

Dorothée started her career in the automobile field in 1910, when she was just sixteen years of age, as a draughtswoman at Scottish car manufacturer Arrol-Johnston. When world war 1 broke out she was put in charge of Arrol-Johnston’s plant in Barrow-in-Furness which was converted from making cars to producing ammunition.

Pullinger may doubtless have benefited from her father being one of the senior managers at the company to get the job but she displayed astute management proficiency, being in charge of a 7000-strong all female workforce and was awarded an MBE in 1920 for her contribution to the war effort.

After hostilities ended, the Barrow-in-Furness factory was converted back to the manufacturing of cars and renamed Galloway Motors Ltd – it now having become a subsidiary of Arrol-Johnston. Developed by Thomas Charles Pullinger with considerable input from his daughter, the Galloway 10/20 introduced in 1920 offered several features that were aimed to appeal to woman drivers: a raised seat position, lower dashboard, a steering wheel of smaller diameter, rear view mirror and a handbrake lever positioned next to the driver’s seat were some examples. About 4000 10/20s were built until the make became defunct in 1928.

Even though Dorothée Pullinger became the first female member (reluctantly accepted it must be added) of the Institution of Automobile Engineers in 1921 and won the Scottish six day car trial in 1924 (she was an enthusiastic amateur racer as well), she became increasingly disenchanted with the continuing resistance experienced as a woman in what was certainly then considered a man’s field of work.

She left the automotive manufacturing business and established the White Service Steam Laundry which became quite successful. During world war 2, Pullinger, her previous achievements evidently not forgotten, was the only woman appointed to the Industry panel of the Ministry of Production. She moved to Guernsey in 1947 and started Normandy Laundries there. Her long and fruitful life ended in 1986 on Guernsey at the age of 92.

Helen Dryden. Image: Richard Quinn

Studebaker interior designer Helen Dryden, born in 1887, graduated from the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts and gained fame as an illustrator for fashion magazines before she was hired in 1934 by the South Bend carmaker through Raymond Loewy. Although some advertisements stated about the Studebaker were headlined, “It’s styled by Helen Dryden“, her contributions were always limited to the interiors of the cars; she would work for Studebaker until 1940.

Studebaker 1936

As at least one among the esteemed DTW readership has a specific affinity with car ashtrays, here is a quote from Ms. Dryden on that particular subject: “In seeking simplicity in modern motor car design, which to me is so essential, there are many things to be considered. I feel that real progress will have been made when more car interiors have recessed ash receivers rather than those little wooden boxes that we have grown accustomed to seeing stuck on the side of the car. An ideal arrangement for disposing of ashes in the deluxe type of vehicle would seem to me to be a small pocket recessed in the wall, covered with a metal door on a hinge. The ashes could easily be dropped inside and the smooth face of the wall would not be disturbed.

Named at one time the highest paid female artist in America by The New York Times, Helen Dryden departed this world either in 1972 or 1981 depending on the source consulted.

Leota Carroll. Image: Ford Motor Company

Edsel Ford, the aesthetically gifted but somewhat frail son of Henry, added the first female stylist to his design department in 1938, her name was Leota Carroll, also an illustrator like Helen Dryden. Carroll worked under Ross Cousins who was himself the son of an automotive illustrator and she was soon followed by some more female additions such as Doris Dickason who specialised in instrument panels and steering wheels, and Florence Henderson who designed trim and ornamentation.

Florence Henderson.

When Edsel died in 1943, Henry Ford, who never had much interest in styling to begin with, reduced the headcount of the department by half and fired all the women; it would not be until 1970 that the Ford Motor Company hired another female for its design department.

Betty Oros

The Detroit based Hudson Motor Company added 22-year old Elizabeth Ann (Betty) Thatcher to its styling department in 1939. A graduate of the Cleveland School of Arts with a major in Industrial Design, her contributions to the manufacturers’ cars were not limited to the interior – she also designed most of the decorative exterior trim for the 1941 Hudson. When Betty Thatcher became Betty Oros in 1941 after she married designer Joe Oros -then working at Cadillac, she resigned from her job at Hudson to avoid conflicts of interest.

Helene Rother. Image: Autoblog

The first woman to be employed in GM styling was Helene Rother. Born in Leipzig in 1908, she escaped Nazi Germany in 1941 together with her husband and started a new life in the United States. At first Rother worked on illustrated comics for Marvel, but when she responded to an ad by General Motors in The New York Times for an automotive interior stylist her career took off.

Helene Rother with Battista Farina and Meade Moore at the Paris Motor Show. Image: Michigan State University Museum

Working under Harley Earl, she designed interiors for all makes across the GM portfolio until 1947 when she left to start her own company – Rother Design Styling Studios. One of her main clients would be another car manufacturer, Nash. She would enjoy a successful partnership with the Kenosha carmaker until its demise in 1957 when it was absorbed in American Motors. Other work by Rother’s firm included among other things furniture, mosaics and stained glass windows.

Rambler Custom Cross Country Wagon

In 1948, Helene Rother became the first woman to address the Society of Automotive Engineers, where she expressed her dismay with the drab interiors and especially the colour choices: “Handsome, big and powerful…”, Helene observed on the current styles of the American automobile, “yet inside there is little to distinguish them apart from one another. Perhaps our new stylists fear to use colours that are too extreme. This results in our being presented again and again with grey and tan interiors, or could it have something to do with the bad climate in Detroit?” Helene Rother Ackerknecht passed away in 1999 and was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2020.

Audrey Moore Hodges. Image: Vanderbiltcupraces

Audrey Moore Hodges studied fashion design at the Detroit Art Academy and graduated from the University of Michigan’s industrial design programme in 1943. During her studies she made technical drawings at the Willow Run plant where the B-24 bomber was being built. Upon being informed about Audrey’s talent by a mutual friend, Virgil Exner (then doing design work for Studebaker) invited the 26-year old to South Bend which resulted in her joining the Studebaker design department in February of 1944.

Tucker Dash

She designed and contributed several components for the all-new 1947 model, including its hood ornament. In 1947 Audrey Moore Hodges moved to Chicago to work for the fledgling Tucker Motor Company – Alex Tremulis was her mentor there. She styled most of the interior and was also one of the authors of the Tucker’s distinctive instrument panel. After Tucker folded, Audrey Moore Hodges left the automotive field and became a sales representative and fashion advisor for women’s fashion companies such as the FormFit Company and Bienjolie. Later in life she started a travel agency that she ran together with her husband until her death in 1996.

Maxine Regan.

It is unclear which, if any, design elements of Plymouth and Chrysler products of the early 1950s can be traced back to her ideas, but what is certain is that Maxine Regan knew how to draw cars and was a talented artist and handy with the airbrush pencil – the lead illustration of this article was made by her.

Image: Dave Gelinas

Having studied arts and worked as a jewellery designer, Maxine Regan would become one of the fixtures of Chrysler Corporation’s version of GM’s Motorama: the “New worlds in engineering” roadshow that travelled all around the country’s major cities over a period of fourteen months in 1951-52.

New worlds in engineering featured over 70 displays and attracted 4.5 million visitors; apart from miss Regan demonstrating her drawing and airbrushing skills there were concept cars present such as the C-200 by Exner/Ghia, several cutaway models, an electron microscope and the “transparent chassis“. This was a full size, completely functional chassis and engine made out of plexiglas and consisting of more than 1200 moving parts; it had reportedly cost Chrysler US $250,000 to make.

Maxine Regan

Today people are practically living in their automobiles, so we have to have to make them as comfortable, attractive and safe as your own living room, with as much attention to decor“, Maxine Regan was quoted in an interview. The platinum blonde designer continued: “I’ve designed a dashboard covered in alligator skin with a matching umbrella which fits into the door panel. Don’t you know women are just going to love that?

MaryEllen Green. Image General Motors

In 1950, at 20 years of age, MaryEllen Green was the youngest designer GM had ever hired; she was in fact too young to sign her employment contract and GM needed written permission from her mother before they could make it official. A graduate in industrial design from Pratt Institute, Green was tasked with designing interiors for GM’s showcars and special vehicles for VIPs and dignitaries.

The all-red Cadillac convertible with special pleated red leather seats that was displayed at the GM building entrance during 1952 to celebrate Cadillac’s 50th anniversary was her work, for example. After leaving GM she went to work for Sundberg-Ferar as an industrial designer; among her clients were Samsonite, IBM, Coldspot, Kenmore and Packard.

Image: Tomlaferriere.com

She was enlisted by Packard stylist Dick Teague to design the seats for Packard’s flagship model, the Caribbean. Her design used in the 1955 and 1956 models, the Posture-Perfect seat, featured reversible upholstery: leather on one side, fabric on the other. As of this writing she is still among us and now goes by her maiden name MaryEllen Dohrs.

Suzanne Vanderbilt, Ruth Glennie, Marjorie Ford Pohlman, Harley Earl, Jeanette Linder, Sandra Longyear, Peggy Sauer.

Likely the most widely publicised group of female car designers were the somewhat condescendingly named damsels of design who worked under GM styling supremo Harley Earl in the late fifties. As this article shows however, they were certainly not the first women Earl hired. In a press release about the group, Earl was quoted: “The skilled feminine hands helping to shape our cars of tomorrow are worthy representatives of American women, who today cast the final vote in the purchase of three out of four automobiles.

The damsels were Ruth Glennie, Suzanne Vanderbilt, Marjorie Ford, Jeanette Linder, Peggy Sauer, Sandra Longyear and Jeanette Krebs. The last would later on marry designer, Tony Lapine. These ladies designed many interior elements for the complete range of General Motors passenger vehicles and came up with useful features we now take for granted such as lighted make-up mirrors, storage consoles, the remote window and door lockout switch, adjustable lumbar supports in the seats and retractable seatbelts.

Feminine Auto Show. Image: General Motors

In 1958 Earl organized the Feminine Auto Show in GM’s huge styling dome to showcase the capabilities of his female design team; they were all tasked with designing a special show car (in some cases two): the damsels had virtually complete authority on the interior ideas but the exterior of the cars was not altered except for the colour of the paintwork.

Jeanette Linder’s Chevrolet Impala Martinique

Suzanne Vanderbilt jumped at the opportunity: “I particularly enjoyed proving to our male counterparts that we were not in the business to add lace doilies to seat backs or rhinestones to the carpets, but to make the automobile just as usable and attractive to both men and women as we possibly could.” Of the cars displayed during the show, unfortunately only Ruth Glennie’s Chevrolet Corvette Fancy Free has survived.

Ruth Glennie’s Chevrolet Corvette FancyFree

Alas, when Harley Earl retired in late 1958 and was succeeded by Bill Mitchell, the damsels were disbanded. Despite Mitchell being close to twenty years the junior of Earl and thus of a younger generation he wanted nothing of it. Comparing the following quotes is illustrative: Earl- “I think that in three or four years women will be designing entire automobiles“. Mitchell- “No women are going to stand next to any senior designers of mine on any exterior styling of Cadillacs or GM’s other brands“. Ouch.

Marjorie Ford’s Buick Shalimar

Only Vanderbilt and Glennie would continue to work in design for GM for several more years but the damsels were history. Looking back, Suzanne Vanderbilt recalled the experience of working under Harley Earl around whom rumours circulated about intimidation and profanity – at least when he was mentoring the damsels, this was not so: “Harley Earl… was a gentleman, in spite of stories that you hear. He was always a gentleman with the women. More a father figure, maybe, than a boss, and he commanded a great deal of respect.

Mimi Vandermolen

Born in the Netherlands in 1946 but raised in Canada, Mimi Vandermolen was one the first women to study industrial design at the Ontario College of Art and Design, graduating in 1969. Vandermolen started working in Ford Motor Company design in 1970 and contributed to the interior design of the downsized Mustang II and Granada but lost her job in 1974 as Ford design laid off many of its staff due to the oil crisis.

Within a few years she was back at Dearborn however and became part of the team that developed the design of the upcoming aerodynamic Ford Taurus. The soft style of the Taurus was -especially for an American car – quite revolutionary at the time, and the rounded style also permeated the interior of the car, courtesy of Vandermolen.

Mimi Vandermolen’s Ford Taurus dash.

Vandermolen was promoted in 1987 to Design Executive for Small Cars, and the first vehicle she was responsible for inside and out was the second generation Ford Probe that debuted in 1993. Just as Dorothée Pullinger many years earlier, Mimi Vandermolen put a lot of emphasis on creating cars that appealed to women and suited their needs.

In fact, she had her male staff wear fake fingernails when trying out doorhandles and operating interior fixtures and even threatened to make them wear skirts when assessing ease of entry and exit of the cars, although (mercifully no doubt), no be-skirted male designers have ever been spotted roaming Ford’s styling studios.

Author: brrrruno

Car brochure collector, Thai food lover, not a morning person before my first cup of coffee

37 thoughts on “Role Call”

  1. That Taurus dashboard in the lowermost picture looks awful, as if it came from a cheap commercial vehicle.

  2. Good morning Bruno. I have little doubt that the women you profiled all had to be exceptionally talented to succeed in a male-dominated environment, so well done for recording their contributions to the industry.

    I wonder to what degree the automotive design business is properly ‘gender-neutral’ these days? Yes, there’s all manner if legislation in place to prevent discrimination of all sorts, but legislation doesn’t change hearts and minds, or remove entrenched bias and prejudice.

    Moreover, allegations of discrimination on the grounds of gender, race, sexual orientation etc. are notoriously difficult to prove to the legal standard required. Even more insidious and subtle is the “not one of us” bias that favours the advancement of people on the basis of social class, personal and family connections, the university they attended etc.

    Apologies for straying beyond DTW’s remit, but this is a subject about which I feel strongly.

    1. I am not so sure if the women mentioned were particularly talented. I think they were simply talented – and talented people are rarely stopped from doing what they are capable of doing.

      Maybe I’m a bit naïve about the male-dominated environment because of my upbringing with a strong father and a strong mother (my mother never had a problem with my father deciding the important things – who would be chancellor and things like that – and her only deciding the unimportant things – what car to buy and what colour, how to furnish the house, or where we went on holiday).
      Maybe I’m a bit naïve about the male-dominated environment because I’m married to a woman entrepreneur who founded the first crew agency in Germoney in the late 80s and ran it successfully for nearly 30 years.
      In my little world (the film business, filled with a lot of quirky personalities) it was always the case that a person’s ability to do their job was paramount. Discrimination because of origin or gender was very rarely an issue – and when it was, it was discussed during a walk around the block with the person in question…. (Most of the time the remark “My way or highway” was enough, but I don’t want to exclude that the approx. 1-metre-long roof bar in the right hand was a decisive argument…)

      But back to the topic:
      How proud a company like Studebaker must have been of a female employee to mention her by name in a sales ad.
      The question that’s been troubling me: Has there ever been anything like this with a male designer? (Apart from special series with fashion designers etc.).

    2. Hello Fred,

      Re your last question, Issigonis turned up in quite a few BMC adverts.

      And I liked this name-dropper one from Fiat.

      Fiat 132 (1978) no half-Italian

    3. Didn’t the Nash Corporation cite Pininfarina quite overtly in their print ads back in the early 1950s? Fiat I recall rolled out Aurelio Lampredi for a print ad back in the early 1980s. Not a car designer, I’ll concede, so does not meet Fred’s strict criteria.

    4. Fred, did you mean something other than -exactly- “like this”?

    5. No, Raymond Fernand Loewy does not count. He probably already had it written in his contracts that his name MUST be mentioned (including spelling and font size).

    6. Hi Fred,

      I remember when my father replaced his Simca 1307S with a then-new SEAT Ibiza 1.2 GL; the brochure stated with great pride that it was designed by Giugiaro. The same applied to the TV commercials for it. The Lancia (Beta) Montecarlo featured Pininfarina’s badges quite prominently; in fact, most cars designed by him did so. The Alfa Romeo GT bore Bertone’s badges, and corporate literature gave credit to the Bertone house. When Škoda launched the Favorit, they made sure to tell everyone who’d listen (even those who wouldn’t) about their collaboration with Bertone. Aston Martin named several of its models after the design house Zagato. Of course, if they were not proud of having had their cars designed by such design celebrities, they wouldn’t go out and make a fuss of it. That said, I’m not sure whether Mercedes-Benz went out of its way to brag about the talents of Paul Bracq and Bruno Sacco; or how much BMW bragged about having had Ercole Spada pen the magnificent E34 5-series. The reason is that I hadn’t read their brochures back then.

      Perhaps you’re getting at why certain companies go out and say “oh, this car was designed by so-and-so” and others don’t. I’d attribute that to marketing decisions. When Škoda launched the Favorit, the company was seen as a maker of relatively solid, but rather obsolete, budget Commie cars. The Bertone connection was a big deal for them, and going public with it was, in all likelihood, seen by management as a way to be taken seriously. The first-generation (System Porsche) Ibiza was viewed as a breakthrough for SEAT. Even though the Ritmo/Strada-based Ronda was a pretty decent and well-equipped car, it was with the Ibiza that they claimed design and engineering independence, so they filled their literature with as many references to their collaborations with Porsche (for the engines) and Giugiaro (for the styling) as possible. Other companies, on the other hand, may not emphasize the designer’s name so much, especially if he or she is an employee rather than an external contractor, or if their clients expect them to have leading designers on board.

  3. A website of Michigan State University, Automobile In American Life and Society, includes the section below, Automotive Oral Histories. Comprising transcripts of dozens of long interviews, with people who had design careers in the American car world. A few of them being well known to DTW, others much less so, including lady designers.

    OK, it’s ancient history now, but if it interests you, lots of fascinating stuff. First hand accounts from the front line, in (with today’s hindsight) the wildly profligate, Wild West decades of that industry. Personality-driven management, feuds, the tyranny of the annual model cycle, dream cars hoopla, the Detroit career network….. Be warned: hours of browsing could ensue !

    http://www.autolife.umd.umich.edu/Oral_histories.htm

  4. This is a welcome article. I might want to widen the discussion by mentioning Eilleen Gray, the Irish designer and architect. She has an amazing life-story, coming from a rural middle class background in 1900s Ireland. She went to London and learned how do Japanese lacquering and invented a method for doing it in red; she designed furniture which is as radical as the Bauhaus and she designed a house good enough for Le Corbusier to crib concepts from it. Had she been born Alan Gray she´d be as famous as Mies Van Der Rohe. It must have been an up-cliff struggle to overcome prejudice about women as designers back then. She is very inspiring.

    1. Oh definitely. Happy to see e.1027 restored again. There was a good documentary about her life ages ago on Dutch television. I’ve been looking for it online, but can’t find it.

    2. Oh definitely. I’m happy e.1027 is restored to its former glory. There was a good documentary about Eileen Gray on Dutch television ages ago, but I can’t find it online.

    3. Interesting that you mention Eileen Gray. I became aware of her about two years ago when Swiss band ‘Patent Ochsner’ presented a song about their singer visiting e.1027. (Probably hard to understand for most readers, as it’s mostly in Swiss German).

    4. That´s a very interesting reference, Simon. I saw Roquebrune when it was quite ruined. I had no idea what it was. I was walking in the area and was a bit mystified to see this building partly overgrown.
      There´s an illustrated novel about Gray which deals with the wierd episode where Le Corbusier painted murals (while undressed!?) all over the house. I think Le Corbusier was quite an unpleasant chap – what his wish to knock down everything and to give us not just “An Architecture” but “One Architecture”. His book title is ambiguous.
      I must be careful or the little green wheels will start following me again, so to speak.

    5. True, as much as I like some of Corbusier’s work, his absolutist view of things is not to my liking.
      Regarding Roquebrune, the singer might have visited it in a similar state as you saw it – judging from the little information we can get from the song text, and how it was impossible for him to enter.

      And to make a reference back to DTW’s main topic, cars…
      There was a colour called Roquebrune on early Citroën CXs. One of the stranger CX colours, a non-metallic orangey brown, but not without its charms:
      https://aws-cf.caradisiac.com/prod/photos/5/6/7/485567/6561005/img-6561005b3c.jpg?v=1

  5. Absolutely fascinating, Bruno, thank you. And the photos are wonderful. I hadn’t realised the 1940’s was so stylish and elegant.

  6. I love the drawings and adds from this era. I also love the dashboard of the Tucker 48, there’s just so little of it. Never knew Audrey Moore Hodges was involved. I was equally unaware of all the other contributions made by the ladies mentioned here. Thanks for sharing, Bruno.

  7. The colour of that Corvette might just be the best I’ve ever seen on any car anywhere. Although I realise it probably looks better under the studio lights than it would under the leaden skies that south London is currently enjoying.

    1. +1. There are so many colours which are better than the choices we currently have. I made a comment in another post about having considered a re-trim for a car interior; I’ll now add having cars vinyl wrapped in a decent colour to that wish list. It doesn’t say much for the current state of affairs, though.

    2. Agreed. It’s not that far off the colour of my Dad’s Series 111 XJ12, in that at least one person thought it was gold when if was (obviously) green. But how often do you see anything other than black, blue or silver on anything “prestigious” these days?

    3. True, alas. In 2019 I praised a driver for his Mercedes S-class´s mid-green metallic. It was a special order, he said. VW offered the Arteon in gold. In Dublin this summer I saw several 3-series BMWs in flat orange and also a flat blue colour. And that´s it for nicely coloured prestige cars. If you want a nicer colour you´ll need to pony up and have it done as a custom job. And to hell with residuals. I think an odd colour might even help as you only need to sell the car once and there is certainly some unmet demand for personal hues.

    4. Richard, your last thought exactly reflects my experience when I was looking for my Citroën C6. With black or dark grey, the seller enters a competition with many other cars, and I saw a lot of such cars that were less than perfect linger around forever in the marketplaces. Whereas any red or sand coloured example was sure to be gone after a few weeks. So when I spotted my ultra-rare green car, I knew I had to be quick…

      Regarding residuals… A friend of mine bought a C3 Picasso about ten years ago, and I asked her why she ordered it in silver grey, when it could be had in that wonderfully refreshing metallic lime, or in a bright royal blue for anyone who doesn’t like it too flashy.
      Residuals.
      Today, with said residualy approaching three-digit figures regardless of colour, she still owns that same car.

  8. Thank you for this terrific, interesting and well researched, article Bruno; full of names with which I was mostly not familiar. I do remember the fuss being made about the mk2 Ford Probe having been designed under a female design lead at the time of its launch and, if I recall correctly, the contemporary commentary was largely positive. That such a thing, even now, might be considered worthy of comment at all is a little depressing but I suppose we have at least progressed somewhat since the earlier times you discuss.

  9. Alas, with a few exceptions, women in car design are still too few which is bad for the ones who don´t get a career and bad for us because I am quite sure there are overlooked talents. Another nasty aspect of the sexism is that the very important, and I think, very difficult job of colour and trim is viewed as somehow second-class work (because carried out by women) which is just outrageous. Often the most interesting and imaginative part of a new car is the colour, material and finish work which can totally save a mediocre product. Speaking positively, Hyundai had a wonderful phase of offering blues and tans some years back which transformed my view of the firm.
    Take a look at this, Suzuki Lapin: https://www.suzuki.co.jp/car/lapin/interior/
    That more or less sells this car to me without any further argument. What´s that got to do with women designers? I assume the CMF team is female (which might be a bit of careless prejudice on my part) and isn´t it fantastic (which is praise)?

    1. That’s a lovely interior. First time is see a drink cartonholder instead of a cupholder.

    2. It’s very nice indeed but I’m afraid that the pale trim colours would quickly look scruffy unless cared for meticulously. Am I being drearily practical in saying that?

    3. I would hate to adjudicate on your reasoning, Daniel. Perhaps I could say that one must suffer for art sometimes. The pale upholstery would be a great excuse not to drive kids or dogs around.
      The same problem regarding tearing and wearing applies to any halfway nice fabric and not just to the lovely materials in the Lapin. It might help to know that the Japanese are meticulous car-cleaners so the fastidiousness needed for a Lapin is not too much for them. The alternative is the world of woven grey fabrics more suited to public transport and that is the world we in Euromarket live in.

    4. Hard wearing and stain-resistant fabrics don’t need to be tediously greyscale. Here’s a selection of moquette fabric patterns from London Underground:

      Even though I’m pretty fussy, I would balk at having to look after cream coloured carpet in a car.

  10. A very nice article, which reminded me of Kay Petre, whom I first heard of as a design consultant to Austin. She had an incredible life, surviving dreadful injuries from her earlier racing career. A brief summary of her later life is here:

    And here’s an advert featuring Ms Petre.

    1. Thank you all for your kind comments; and thank you Charles for bringing Kay Petre to my attention- I did not know about her but I am glad I do now; as if often said “every day is a school day at DTW” and that includes its writers!

  11. Great to see these women celebrated – that Corvette colour is to die for.
    Makes me wonder what proportion of DtW readership is female – I’m not sure I’ve seen any comments from apparently-female contributors.

    1. There was one a few year back. The number of female readers is probably in the single figures but I would be happy to be proved wrong. I think this site avoids macho posturing which is why it´s so convivial. I hope our female readers feel the same.

    2. That’s a very good question, Matt. The ‘nom de plumes’ our commenters use often disguise their gender, but I do hope we have a decent number of female readers who feel very much at home here. Our readership is of course, a far larger community than our commentariat.

  12. I don’t know how widespread the concept of a men’s shed* is, but this site is definitely, in the best possible way, a men’s shed…

    * a concept originating in Australia where men gather to be nice to, and support each other

    1. Pat: Thanks for your kind words. A shed it may indeed be, but we do have a few nice throws and comfy cushions here. Support after all takes many forms…

  13. Here’s an example of a door handle design that’s bad for long fingernails:

    When the NB Mazda MX-5 was launched, the only detail that baffled me was the rather generic door handles that replaced those beauties. However, in one of the articles I’ve read about the new car it was explained that Mazda made that change because of the negative feedback they’ve received about the previous design. I guess that the Ferrari/Alfa/Fiat design that served as inspiration wouldn’t fare much better…

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