MotorCities National Heritage Area
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2024

By Robert Tate, Award-Winning Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of Ford Motor Company Archives and the Detroit Free Press
Published 2.21.2024

Chris Young Detroit Free Press 6Ford Designer Chris Young (Detroit Free Press)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Today, we continue our observance of Black History Month with a look at Ford Motor Company designer Christopher Young, who is continuing the tradition began with Ford’s first Black designer, McKinley Thompson.

One of the best-looking vehicles on the road today is the new Ford Bronco, which many thoroughly enjoy. The Bronco has a great legacy with Ford Motor Company and is also a part of our great truck heritage. Recently, designer Chris Young worked with the Ford design team to move forward with a new idea for the next generation Ford Bronco.

McKinley Thompson Jr designer of the first Bronco Ford Motor Company Archives 2McKinley Thompson Jr, designer of the first Bronco (Ford Motor Company Archives)

The original Ford Bronco styling idea in 1966 began with McKinley Thompson Jr. (November 8,1922 - March 8, 2006), who was the first African American auto designer in the world and started working at Ford in 1956. He was hired by Ford designer Alex Tremulis (January 23, 1914 - December 29, 1991). Last year, Thompson was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan.

Christopher Young as a child with his Matchbox collection Detroit Free Press 1Christopher Young as a child with his Matchbox collection (Detroit Free Press)

Young grew up with a passion for Matchbox cars as a child. As a toy car collector myself, I can see how miniature toy cars can change and motivate your outlook for accomplishing many automotive goals in life.  For Young his passion and artistic ability has led to the creation of many different automotive projects. He is a very talented designer at Ford, and as a young African American, he has been a role model motivating individuals from all over the world with his great personality, talent and passion for automotive design. He is a true car guy.

The 2021 Ford Bronco Ford Motor Company Archives 3The 2021 Ford Bronco (Ford Motor Company Archives)

Young once said, “I remember as a child the mailman came by, and I told him I wanted to be a car designer.” He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in industrial and product design from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial and product design from the University of Bridgeport. Young also has a very impressive automotive resume, which includes restoration work as an Aston Martin apprentice in Connecticut and later work on Jaguars and Porsches as well. Over his 25 year career, Young has also been a part of the Ford Mustang design team and created new style themes for the Lincoln Continental, Lincoln Navigator and many other Ford projects.

Ford Bronco designs Ford Motor Company Archives RESIZED 4Ford Bronco designs (Ford Motor Company Archives)

In addition to Young as lead senior creative designer, the next generation Bronco design team also included Paul Wraith, program chief designer; Robert Gelardi, design manager; and Daniel Kangas, exterior lead designer.

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Interior Ford Motor Company Archives 5The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Interior (Ford Motor Company Archives)

In conclusion, McKinley Thompson Jr, who was a great friend of mine, had a huge passion for automotive industrial design and played a large role in the original Ford Bronco models in 1966. Today, Christopher Young continues that design tradition in the next generation Bronco while bringing Thompson’s trailblazing career full circle.

Christopher Young Detroit Free Press 7Christopher Young (Detroit Free Press)

Ford Bronco design Ford Motor Company Archives RESIZED 8Another Ford Bronco design (Ford Motor Company Archives)

Bibliography

Foote, Brett. “Bronco Sport Designer Finds Inspiration from First-Gen Sketch Artist.” Ford Authority, July 17, 2020.

Nash, Michael. “Ford’s Design Team on the New Bronco.” CDN Car Design News, July 13, 2020.

Wall Howard, Phoebe. “2021 Ford Bronco Designer Follows in the Footsteps of the Jackie Robinson of Car Design.” Detroit Free Press, July 13, 2020.

By Robert Tate, Award-Winning Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of the GM Media Archives
Published 2.14.2024

By Robert Tate, Award-Winning Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of Chrysler Archives, Robert Tate Collection, ClassicCars.com
Published 2.7.2024

by A. Wayne Ferens
Images from the Ferens Collection
Published 1.31.2024

By Robert Tate, Award-Winning Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of Hot Rod Archives, Motor Trend Archives, Wallpaper.com and Chrysler Archives
Published 1.24.2024

1970 AMC Rebel Machine ad Chrysler Archives 3A 1970 AMC Rebel Machine ad (Chrysler Archives)

The 1970 Rebel Machine from the American Motors Corporation (AMC) was a muscle car that many automotive fans really admired. These models had an impressive design along with a great high performance engine package.

At the dawn of the 1970s, AMC was facing difficult times, including ongoing UAW labor disputes, quality control issues, and major shake ups in its top management. However, its advertising agency, Wells Rich Greene, recognized a new buyers’ market -- young adults who were interested in high-performance intermediate fast cars like the earlier successful Hurst SC/Rambler.

1970 AMC Rebel Machine introduced at the NHRA World Championship October 1969 Motor Trend 1The 1970 AMC Rebel Machine introduced at the NHRA World Championship, October 1969 (Motor Trend)

The 1970 AMC Rebel Machine was introduced at the NHRA World Championship drag racing event in October 1969. The first 100 models were delivered from AMC’s Kenosha, Wisconsin plant with a 390 cubic inch/340 hp engine and a very popular Hurst shifter.

1970 AMC Rebel Machine pamphlet Chrysler Archives RESIZED 2The cover of a 1970 AMC Rebel Machine pamphlet (Chrysler Archives)

Some automotive historians have reported that the Rebel Machine was a joint venture between AMC and the Hurst Company. The project came together led by Hurst Performance Research Vice President David L. Landrith and AMC Vice President of Marketing R.W. “Bill” McNeeley.

1970 AMC Rebel Machine promotional photo Chrysler Archives 4A 1970 AMC Rebel Machine promotional photo (Chrysler Archives)

The Rebel Machine emblems were located on the front fender side along with a rear trim panel’s right hand side emblem as well. Some Rebel Machine models offered a red, white and blue paint scheme enjoyed by many auto enthusiasts. Many solid colors were also offered.

1970 AMC Rebel Machine Motor Trend 5The 1970 AMC Rebel Machine (Motor Trend)

The Rebel Machine cartoon logo on the side of the vehicle proved to be very popular. The logo was illustrated by the artist Johnny Hart, creator of the “BC” comic strip. The cartoon sticker could be ordered through AMC for 25 cents and subsequently became collectors’ items (if you can find one). The early Rebel Machines with their great graphics, were designed by Hurst’s Gene Baker, who had previously designed the popular Hurst SC/Rambler models.

1970 AMC Rebel Machine Wallpaper.com RESIZED 6Another view of the 1970 AMC Rebel Machine (Wallpaper.com)

For the 1970 model year, the rear end received new styling. AMC wanted to make a styling splash for 1970 with the young adult market, so advertising campaigns were run in popular automotive magazines like Car Craft, Hot Rod, and Motor Trend in December 1969. The advertisement said, “Introducing the Rebel Machine.”  

At the time of its introduction, the Rebel Machine came with a price tag of $3,475. Despite a limited production schedule of only 2,362 units, the Rebel Machine proved to be very popular in 1970.

1970 AMC Rebel Machine side door logo Wallpaper.com 7The 1970 AMC Rebel Machine side door logo (Wallpaper.com)

Today, the 1970 Rebel Machine models are in great demand by collectors. A restorable model would cost a collector more than $10,000 as is. The 1970 Rebel Machines came equipped with an automatic or a manual transmission for the consumer package when purchasing.

1970 AMC Rebel Machine Hot Rod Archives RESIZED 8The 1970 AMC Rebel Machine at a race track (Hot Rod Archives)

In conclusion, the early 1970s were a time when AMC overcame a tight budget to introduce an imaginative, great-looking, high-performance muscle car called the Rebel Machine. Today, the Rebel Machine is still very popular among automotive enthusiasts and will always be included as a part of muscle car history.

Bibliography

Kowalke, Ron. “Standard Guide to American Muscle Cars 1960-1995.” Krause Publications, 1996.

McClurg, Bob. “Red, White & Fast 1970 AMC Rebel Machine: Giving AMC’s performance intermediate a second look.” Motor Trend, July 31, 2015.

Frumkin, MJ. “Classic Muscle Car Advertising: The Art of Selling Horsepower.” Krause Publications, 2002.

By Robert Tate, Award-Winning Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of Paula Murphy Archives
Published 1.17.2024

By Robert Tate, Award-Winning Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of the Malcolm Bricklin Archives. A special thanks to Historian Ron Konopka for this story.
Published 1.10.2024

by A. Wayne Ferens
Images Courtesy of Ford Motor Company Archives and the Ferens Collection
Published 1.3.2024