MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of Tom Hale/Automotive Illustrations
Published 12.13.2023

1957 Cadillac illustration by Tom Hale 1A 1957 Cadillac illustration by Tom Hale

I had the pleasure of meeting Tom Hale when I worked at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum many years ago. I was very impressed with his automotive illustrations that highlighted the history of the automobile with great colors and a beautiful contrast of tints. Tom’s illustrations are recognized by many automotive enthusiasts from all over the world. Tom is not just a gifted automotive illustrator and a fantastic artist; he is also a perfect gentleman with a great personality, which many people have come to admire.

Chrysler Imperial front end by Tom Hale 2Chrysler Imperial front end by Tom Hale

Hale’s journey began at the age of seven when he started drawing futuristic automobile designs. When he entered high school, his passion for drawing automobiles continued. Hale graduated from high school in 1958, and he started his career in the U. S. Navy serving aboard a destroyer for two years.

After completing his naval service in 1963, Hale enrolled at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles to further explore his education. His time at Art Center College of Design created a path to becoming a talented automotive designer. He has said that his enthusiasm for art and automobiles carried him through his college days. In 1966, Hale graduated with a degree in transportation design.

Duesenberg illustration by Tom Hale 3A Duesenberg illustration by Tom Hale

After art school, Hale was hired by General Motors to be a part of their Global Technical Center design staff as an automotive designer. Later, he joined the Chrysler design team and then moved over to the American Motors Corporation, where he would spend 17 years. After his time at American Motors, Hale decided to pursue his talent with automotive illustrations on a full-time basis.

1932 Duesenberg illustration by Tom Hale 4A 1932 Duesenberg illustration by Tom Hale

When Hale career as an automotive illustrator began in 1985, he started producing many great original automotive paintings and would sell over 3,000 unique illustrations to clients throughout the United States and around the world. For many years, his work has been on display at various automotive events throughout the United States. He has also been commissioned to create posters for events around the world, which have included 65 award-winning automotive posters that many admire and collect. Hale has collected over 360 awards for his automotive illustration work, which is now a part of his legacy as being one of the best.

Engine illustration by Tom Hale 5An engine illustration by Tom Hale

Some of the automotive events where Hale’s work is featured include Pebble Beach, St John’s, Amelia Island, Auburn and the CCCA, along with many other prestigious automotive events across the country. Hale also received the Gold Medal of Honor award from the American Watercolor Society (AWS).

Packard front end illustration by Tom Hale 6A Packard front end illustration by Tom Hale

Hale once said, “Every once in a great while, there is a rare moment of inspiration that is so intense, so intoxicating, it’s as if I can actually taste the colors.” Hale’s works of art are breathtaking, and he creates beautiful works of art that are overwhelmingly dynamic and sought out by collectors all over the world.

Tom Hale portrait 7Tom Hale

In conclusion, Tom Hale has contributed a great deal to the automotive community for many years. Driven to perfection, he has made a big difference in the world of automotive illustration. If anyone were to judge an auto illustrator by the merit of his accomplishments, then Tom Hale would be at the top of the list, and his great legacy will live on.

A classic car illustration by Tom Hale 8One more classic car illustration by Tom Hale

                                                                                                        

Bibliography

Tom Hale Gallery Biography, 2023.

AutomotiveArtists.com. “Tom Hale.” February 15, 2009.

McCourt, Mark J. “Tom Hale.” Hemmings.com, September 13, 2018.