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Chuck Jordan Dies


Charles D. Barnette
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What a loss to the automotive community, and of course, to his family. Last July at the

Meadow Brook Concours, just before judging began, I looked up while polishing the front

bumper of our '56 Lincoln, and saw a very distinguished fellow standing in front of our car.

I asked, rather sheepishly, "Excuse me, aren't you Chuck Jordan?" "Yes," came his humble reply;

I'd never before been in the presence of such an esteemed individual, one I'd read about my

entire life. Knowing that one of his first successes as a GM designer was the Second-Series

'55 Chevy truck line, a conversation ensued about my '55 Bookmobile, among other things.

Stating that having been raised in modest farmland in CA, he felt that trucks needed good design,

and that platform would be a good place to make his first mark. I told him that I was embarassed to

have missed his design symposium the night before, and the Q & A that followed, and he began

to delve into his design philosophies and career highs. It was almost as if I was getting a private,

bullet-point reprise of the previous night's talk, and I wouldn't have cared if it never ended.

As our discussion continued he noted the Lincoln, and began to walk around it, speaking of the

admiration he and his GM colleagues had for it when the car was first introduced. Especially

the long rear quarter with its uninterrupted flow and length that seemingly went on and on,

stating that they weren't doing anything nearly as clean and elegant at the time. Naturally,

I felt ten feet tall in his presence, and my pointed questions were answered graciously, with an easy,

affable interaction. (He complimented the car's fine restoration and flawless paint job, which added

to my already lofty giddiness). Dave Bowman joined the conversation mid-way, and we were three

enthusiasts talking cars on a magnificent Michigan Summer's morning.

After about 15 or 20 minutes (it was nearing 10AM), Mr. Jordan noted that he needed to attend

to his judging duties, and I asked if I could take a photo of him with the Lincoln, to which

he obliged. It's one of the most priceless pictures I've taken, a personal high moment in time

never to be duplicated...

chuck_jordanx.jpg

Larger

As the day progressed and judging was finished, the class winners from our circle left for their

photo-ops (the Lincoln was not among them), and Dave and I went to lunch. Reflecting on the

morning, and just happy to be there among such fine automotive iron, I got a phone call from

our ringleader, stating that we needed to get back soon as our car had been awarded a

special prize. We arrived back at the ring and found a ribbon on the windshield,

denoting the Lincoln's win.

56_prize_1x.jpg

Larger

It was for "Best Reflection," a silver loving cup presented near the end of the awards presentation,

won the previous year by a '48 Delahaye, bodied by Faget et Varnet. As it was our first concours showing,

it was difficult to contain the excitement of the moment, particularly in the awards line-up when we

found ourselves next to the Best of Show American, a '29 Duesenberg Dual-Cowl Phaeton. I know it

was just another show, but as the last Concours d'Elegance of America held at Meadow Brook Hall,

it was a high-water mark of my 40-odd years in the hobby.

lineup1x.jpg

Larger, photo by John Muller.

We'll never know if the chance meeting with Chuck Jordan had anything to do with our win,

but the memorable, albeit too-brief conversation with an automotive titan remains as

the highlight of that beautiful, sunny day.

TG

Edited by TG57Roadmaster (see edit history)
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What a great story TG. A fitting tribute to the nature of a great individual and the influences he had on more than a four decades of auto designs.

His comment about the Lincoln gave me reason to believe the impression was lasting and was most certainly reflected in GM "B" body designs of the early 1960s. I often wondered why the elongated rear on those vehicles, now we know.

Jim

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That is a great story TG, how fortunate you were to have such a visit and thanks for telling us the story.

Chuck Jordan is much less famous to old car people than Harley Earl or Bill Mitchell but is very influential in that he was only the fourth design chief at GM and at his retirement had been in GM design for almost GMs entire postwar history (1949-92), including serving under both Earl and Mitchell. My best memory of him is his appearance in the outstanding 1995 TBS history "Driving Passion" which is available in pieces on You Tube. His interviews and storytelling were fascinating, everyone should look at this program.

RIP Mr Jordan, thanks for the designs, Todd C

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I've recently taken a shine to the Opel Mantas. These were designed under the eye of Jordan. It amazes me the gamat of designs that he was involved in-in all generations. To go from American conservatism to German sports coupe requires an open and creative mind.

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