My Car Quest

April 15, 2024

An Exhibition: Car Design in Detroit – 1950–2020

by Mike Gulett –

Detroit was once the center for American car design and has a lot to be proud of as a leader in the automotive world. Some of that American car design mojo has relocated to Southern California but Detroit’s history is dazzling.

In another example of an art museum showcasing car design the Detroit Institute for the Arts is holding an exhibition titled, Detroit Style: Car Design in the Motor City, 1950–2020.

Toronado Proposal

Corvette Sting Ray Racer

Design drawings and photographs showing the ideas the designers had on their way to a final design will also be on display in addition to 12 automobiles.

Some of the design ideas were clearly side trips to reality and never made it to production.

Elwood Engle Design

Lincoln XL 500 Concept Car

From the Detroit Institute for the Arts web site

This exhibition organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts will highlight the artistry and influence of Detroit car designers working between 1950 and the present day. It will bring together 12 coupes and sedans designed across that 70-year period to highlight significant achievements in style and technology.

This exhibit runs Sunday, November 15, 2020 through Sunday, June 27, 2021 and is free with general admission. All museum visitors must make an advance reservation.

Residents of Wayne, Oakland & Macomb counties Free
Adults $14.00
Seniors $9.00
College Students (w/ valid school ID) $8.00
Youth (6-17) $6.00
Children (5 and under) Free
Members Free
Museum Parking Lot $7.00

Ford Nucleon Atomic Powered Vehicle

General Motors Firebird III

This looks like an interesting exhibit and a fun time.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Detroit Institute for the Arts

Detroit Institute for the Arts Logo

All images compliments of Detroit Institute for the Arts.
An Exhibition: Car Design in Detroit - 1950–2020
Article Name
An Exhibition: Car Design in Detroit - 1950–2020
This exhibition organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts will highlight the artistry and influence of Detroit car designers working between 1950 and the present day.


  1. Thank you for sharing these pictures and this preview with My Car Quest readers. As you say, it looks very interesting.

  2. And if anyone attends this exhibit please send in photos!

  3. Wallace alfred Wyss says

    For town that must employ 3000-4000 designers this is a woefully small amount of work to be displayed. I think they should have a half finished clay model to show the role that plays. And for retired designers a special night (maybe closing week) where they can display 3 works each for sale because when else will us memorabilia collectors be able to buy automaker art?

  4. Peter Heimann says

    Is there a catalogue ?

  5. Wallace Wyss says

    I’ll write a letter to the Museum to see if they could see their way clear to having the last week on the exhibition be open to retired car designers to exhibit 3 works each for sale. Unfortunately not all designers took work home –most saw it dumped into the trash to make way for new art. But at least to some who did, it’s a robin’s egg-sized next egg. And now that they aren’t doing big drawings on vellum anymore it’s a lost art. I’ll print the letter here first and then those who second the motion can write the Museum too. By the way the murals in one of the pictures are by the great Diego Rivera. There’s a story about those too, one of the braveness of the Ford family to not let them get painted over like the Rockefellers allowed when he did a mural for them in NYC.

  6. Wallace Wyss says

    Detroit Institute of Arts
    5200 Woodward Ave.
    Detroit MI 48202 December 8, 2020

    Dear Directors:
    As a historian and fine artist I am grateful that you have a show related to car design in your hallowed halls. I was surprised with the small amount of drawings, renderings shown, and would like to propose a unique ending to the event, an ending that would be newsworthy on its own.

    That would either be a week long or day long if need be, where 100 members of The League of Retired Auto Designers could come, set up a card table, and display and sell three of the original renderings they saved forever, sometimes for five decades. This would give the audience a chance to buy work like that which was displayed and give the retirees a little income.

    I am publishing this letter on in hopes others will have further suggestions to benefit the designers who have made Detroit famous.

    Wallace Wyss

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