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Exner, Virgil M. Jr.

Exner, Virgil M. Jr.


Virgil Max Exner, Sr., discussed in this interview by his son Virgil Jr., was born in 1909 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He studied art at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana (1927-1928) but left before completing a degree to take employment as a layout artist and illustrator with a South Bend, Indiana firm, Advertising Artists. While there, he produced illustrations for Studebaker Corporation, who held an account with the agency. In 1934, Exner moved to Harley Earl's Art and Colour Section at General Motors Corporation, where he was quickly promoted to the position of Chief Designer for Pontiac Studios. After only four years at GM, however, Exner was lured away to join Raymond Loewy's industrial design firm and was placed in charge of the Studebaker Corporation account. Now, as chief styling engineer for Studebaker, Exner was responsible for developing several new lines of automobiles: the first Champion in 1939, a new line of Champion, Commander, and President models in 1941, and the 1947 post-war model, the Starlight coupe. In 1949, Exner joined Chrysler Corporation as head of the newly established Advanced Design Studio. By 1953, Exner was put in charge of all corporation styling, and in 1957, he was named Vice-president of Styling, a post he held until his retirement from Chrysler in 1961. While at Chrysler, Exner was responsible for the development of sixteen "idea" cars, built by the Ghia firm of Italy. In the area of production vehicles, Exner was responsible for the "Forward Look" lines of 1955 and 1956 and the revolutionary line of 1957 “wedge theme” cars. Exner resigned from Chrysler in 1961 to begin his own design and development firm, Virgil Exner Inc., with his son Virgil, Jr., also an automotive designer. Most notable was Virgil Exner Sr. series of "classic revivals" (redesigning classic cars for a modern market) such as his design of the 1963 Mercer-Cobra, the 1966 Duesenberg, and his late-1960s Stutz Blackhawk. Until his death in 1973, the two Exners were also involved in a variety of automotive and pleasure boat design initiatives. (Adapted from Virgil M. Exner Papers, 1913-1986 finding aid).

Collection contains 4 WAV files, 8 MP3 files, 1 diskette, 1 loose transcript, 1 bound transcript, and 1 Word transcript. Uploaded July 23, 2021.

Related item:
Virgil M. Exner Papers, 1913-1986 (PDF of finding aid)
Virgil Exner: Visioneer: The Official Biography of Virgil M. Exner, Designer Extraordinaire
Creator Name: Exner, Virgil M. (Virgil Max), 1909-1973 in Digital Collections

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