Tom Gale was the architect of Chrysler’s design resurgence during the 1990s. Gale was the originator of Chrysler’s “cab forward” design, which utilized space more efficiently by pushing the wheels toward the corners and moving the engine and passenger cabin forward, resulting in more interior space and a more aerodynamic shape.
Gale was born in 1943 and raised in Flint, MI. His father was an engineer in GM’s Buick division and fostered his son’s interest in automobiles. Gale graduated from Michigan State University in 1966 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial design, receiving a master’s degree the next year. He was hired by Chrysler in 1967 as part of the company’s newly formed advanced body-engineering group.
Despite Chrysler’s financial troubles during the 1970s and 80s, Gale stayed with the company, believing that one day he could make an impact. He would later be moved into the design department, where he worked on Lee Iacocca’s K-Car project. Gale was appointed head of design in 1985 and took Chrysler design in a radical new direction.
His vision for Chrysler’s future was revealed at the 1987 Frankfurt Motor Show with the introduction of the Chrysler Portofino concept. The Portofino was the first in a slew of revolutionary concept cars under Gale’s direction. Over the next decade, Chrysler’s theatrical concept car introductions became the most anticipated events at auto shows thanks to cars like the 1993 Chrysler Thunderbolt, 1995 Atlantic, and the 1997 Phaeton. Some of the vehicles even reached production status. One such concept was the 1989 Dodge Viper, which was Gale’s interpretation of what a modern Shelby Cobra built by Chrysler would look like. The concept was so well received that it was developed into a production model and released to the public in 1992. Later he was involved with the LH platform vehicles, the Plymouth Prowler, and the redesign of the 1994 Dodge Ram pickup.
Gale retired from Chrysler in 2000 and opened a design consultancy firm. He also builds hot rods in his spare time, including a 1933 Ford highboy roadster with a Hemi V8 engine. Through his creativity and passion, Tom Gale helped transform Chrysler from producer of boxy K-Cars and minivans into a leader in automotive design.