- Historic Sites
Designer of the American Dream
Bill Mitchell’s imaginings brought you the cars of Detroit’s ultimate classic era
November 1996 | Volume 47, Issue 7
And it was undeniably powerful. Its stairway of models and prices led off into a bright future of dream cars— the prototypes in the traveling “Motorama” shows and the elaborate displays of future Wildcats and Firebirds that were even accompanied by song and dance. GM linked itself to the very idea of upward mobility and constant economic progress. Mitchell, building that stairway, embedded the aesthetic of automotive power and prestige firmly and subliminally in the American subconscious.
However, this most American of visions was a vision of Europe seen from America. In Mitchell’s head there always danced memories of the Hispano-Suizas and Isotta-Fraschinis he had glimpsed from the curbs of New York streets when he arrived there as a fifteen-year-old. And some of the details of his last cars, with their racy hips and sharp fronts, could have been details in his first romantic pastel sketches from the 1930s, all speed lines and blurs, bright and colorful on black paper.
Unabashed “styling” may never return, but within a decade of Mitchell’s exit, looks came to drive sales again. Still, Mitchell’s cars, out there in the lots, continue to evoke a golden era of American automobiles in a way no car on the road today can match.