William Leroy Mitchell
The story of William Leroy Mitchell, and the world of automotive design is a subset of the larger story of how General Motors became the world’s largest corporation during the great depression. The radical notion was to establish the world’s first design department with the objective to create cars that the customer wanted to buy. Harley Earl was hired in 1927 to establish the Art & Colour Section. Thirty years later, Bill Mitchell as the second VP Styling/ Design (1958-1977) elevated it into the essential corporate profession emulated worldwide today.
WLM was responsible for the design of over 136 million automobiles produced by GM, including the Corvette, Camaro, Riviera, and Toronado. He was to become the foremost American automobile designer of his time and responsible for the Iconic cars of GM Styling during the 1960s and 1970s.
"He created dramatic and beautiful cars that people wanted to buy." (Sergio Pininfarina)
Capturing A Legacy
As Head of Bill Mitchell’s secret Studio-X during the mid-1960s, I had an up-close and personal look of Bill Mitchell and his design passion.
My story explores the journey of a kid from the streets of Compton who studied engineering at the University of California, graduated with Honors from Art Center in industrial design at the age of twenty-two, and went to work as a designer first for Ford followed two years later at General Motors. It also explores the forty year period after I left GM and created Magna Design into a major international product design and marketing communications firm, during which time I had a working relationship with the CEOs of over 250 companies. I know what makes great design and successful business leaders.
WLM managed his creative team like the conductor of an orchestra, waving his arms like a baton, demanding excellence, and achieving the results of his vision. He was a Maestro.
And of course the proof of his leadership: The Iconic Cars of GM