Virgil M. Exner

Inducted 1995

Served as chief stylist for General Motors’ Pontiac studios from 1935 through 1938

In 1938, joined Raymond Loewy’s industrial design firm and assumed responsibility for the Studebaker account

Revolutionized automotive design in 1955 with the “Forward Look” line of automobiles at Chrysler, where he later served as Vice President of styling

Virgil Exner gave a new shape to motion with innovative designs that made many American cars of the 1950s true “dream machines.” Displaying artistic talent as a youth, Exner studied art at Notre Dame University and began his career in 1928 as an illustrator for Advertising Artists. He later joined General Motors’ Art and Color Section and at age 24 became the youngest head of a GM styling division. In 1938, designer Raymond Loewy recruited Exner to join Loewy’s design studio, where Exner was placed in charge of the Studebaker account, creating designs for some of Studebaker’s most popular models. But it was after he joined Chrysler that Exner made his most lasting impression with Chrysler’s “Forward Look.” Featuring streamlined bodies and tail fins, the “Forward Look” cars appeared ready for action even when parked, and were responsible for turning around Chrysler’s slumping sales. Although Exner is best remembered as “The Fin Man,” his talents extended to all areas of styling. One historian noted: “Exner’s designs incorporated elements of art and science to create practical transportation that also had grace and flair.”

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