John J. Telnack

Inducted 2008

Distinguished Service Citation Award 1992

1937 -

 “The most influential designer since Harley Earl.”The New York Times

John “Jack” Telnack shaped some of Ford’s most iconic vehicles. Telnack was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1937. He knew he wanted to design cars as early as 4 years old after seeing a 1941 Lincoln Continental convertible driving down the street and would often ride his bicycle to Ford’s Rotunda building to see the latest concept cars. When Telnack was 15, his father, who worked at the Ford Rouge Plant, arranged for him to visit Ford’s Design Center. “I don’t know how to explain this,” he later said, “but when I entered the studio I felt at home. I knew this was where I was meant to be.”

Telnack graduated from Art Center College in Pasadena in 1958 and was offered a design job at Ford, working primarily on small design details and ornamentation. He got his first big break as a junior member of the original Mustang design team where he designed the original wheel covers as well as the fastback variant. “The wheel covers must have been good,” he once remarked, “because they were regularly stolen.” Telnack moved up the ranks quickly, becoming a manager in just four years. In 1966, he was named chief designer for Ford of Australia, and built the design studio there from the ground up. Telnack returned to Dearborn in 1969 and was later put in charge of the Mustang and Pinto projects. The defining moment in Telnack’s career came in 1980 when then-Ford President Phillip Caldwell came to Telnack and said, “We need a new car, one that will give us an advantage. And I want you to push the envelope on this one.”

The result was the groundbreaking 1986 Ford Taurus. Global car design at the time was very boxy. By contrast, the Taurus’s soft and sculpted “aero-look” was revolutionary, and it soon became the bestselling car in America. Telnack retired from Ford in January of 1998. An accomplished designer and cultivator of talent, Jack Telnack’s career was summed up succinctly by former Ford Chairman Harold Poling when he said “There are great designers and there are charismatic leaders. Jack Telnack is both.”

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1937

Jack Telnack was born in Detroit, Michigan

1952

Telnack’s father took him on a tour of Ford’s Design Center which heavily influenced his career path

1958

Graduated from Art Center College in Pasadena, California

1958

Hired by the Ford Motor Company to design minor details and ornamentation

1966

Named chief designer for Ford of Australia, where he built his own design studio

1969

Moved back to Michigan to work on the Mustang and Pinto design projects for Ford

1970

Ford President Phillip Caldwell asked Telnack to design a new and bold car for Ford

1986

Telnack unveiled the Ford Taurus

1992

The Ford Taurus became the most popular car in America

1998

Telnack retired from the Ford Motor Company

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Class of 2008

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