Legendary GM Designer Chuck Jordan Dies at 83

Dec 15, 2010

Chuck Jordan, the General Motors designer who dreamed up classics that included the 1963 Buick Riviera, the 1967 Cadillac Eldorado and the 1973 Chevy Monte Carlo, has died, the New York Times is reporting.

The 83-year-old Jordan died last week at his home in Rancho Santa Fe, California, from lymphoma.

According to the Times, Jordan’s automotive designs were “dripping with tail fins, chrome and post-war exuberance. [He] helped reshape the look of GM cars as the company grappled with foreign competition and steeper fuel costs.”

During his time at GM, Jordan became known for his bold designs, including the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado, which he gave extreme fins. Jordan also designed tractors, pickups, Corvettes and Opels.

He also “contributed to the ‘wide-track’ Pontiacs, the baby boomers’ cherished muscle cars,” according to the Times.

“We deal with design-an intangible and emotional subject,” Jordan said in an interview with Automotive News at the time of his retirement in 1992. “There are no rules or steps to success. It’s a matter of opinion. This isn’t research or engineering with computer programs and hard data.”

“Words may not communicate it exactly,” he continued in the Automotive News interview. “You gotta see it and feel it. We deal with an emotion.”

Jordan started at GM after he won a scholarship prize in a model car competition during his sophomore year at MIT.

After graduation, he was hired by Harley Earl, who was then GM’s vice president of design.

One of his first jobs was designing a GM truck for the 1955 model year, for which he got the design patent, according to the Times.

Some of the more-notable designs that Jordan contributed to include the 1956 Buick Centurion Coupe, the production 1958 Corvette and the wide-track Pontiacs of the 1960s.

Jordan stayed with GM for four decades, and at one time served as GM’s chief designer for Cadillac.

In 1962, Life magazine named him as one of the “100 most important young men and women in the United States.”

He led the design team for the Camaros, Firebirds, Chevy Caprices and Buick Reattas of the 1990s.

After retiring from GM, Jordan taught auto design at a high school.

Jordan is survived by his wife, children, grandchildren and siblings.

To view a slide show of some of the cars Jordan contributed to, go to the Wall Street Journal‘s “Driver Seat” blog here.