Gilmore museum showcases historic Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild models

GM scholarship competition ran from 1930-1968 and launched the careers of many car designers

If you like me struggled to glue together those AMT and Revel plastic model car kits back in the day, got Testers glue all over everything, never got the decals on properly and suffered absolute disasters when you tried to actually apply any shade of paint, you like me would be in awe of the models produced by people our age who were part of the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild competition.

General Motors and Fisher Body invited young men of high school and college age, from 11 to 20 years of age, to create scale-model vehicles, would-be concept cars, and not from a kit but from scratch, and to enter them in a national competition that ran from 1930 into 1968.

The GM Design staff did the judging, prizes were awarded in the form of college scholarships, of which thousands were awarded and helped launch many car-designer careers (and designers of other products, including space exploration vehicles) were begun and funded through the competition.

Models are displayed with wonderfully lit cases surrounded by walls filled with photos and contest information

Many of those who entered the contest kept their models. Some have been donated to museums. From time to time, a showing of the models has been staged at a concours or other venue. 

Back in early April, and running at least through October, the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, has sectioned off a part of one of the showrooms in its Heritage Center Annex for an exhibit that displays around 100 of the models, but goes much further with other artifacts from the competitions. 

I write “at least through October” because there is a hope among Guild alumni that the museum might find a way to make the display a permanent exhibit.

The display is marvelously presented, with the models very well-lit and protected in glass cases. There also is a display case of other artifacts from the competition, including a wooden box for shipping the models, a television showing video coverage of the event, another display case that shows the stages in the model-making process, as well as a couple of models of the Napoleonic Coach that became the logo for Fisher Body and was engraved in the doorsills of GM vehicles for many years, plus wall-sized photographs and display boards sharing the history and other facts about the program.

And just outside the display is a full-scale “Body by Fisher” coach on loan from the R.E. Olds Museum in Lansing, Michigan.

Although more of the models have been displayed in once place in the past, the Gilmore’s overall showcase likely is the best one yet. I’m among those hoping its temporary status changes to permanent.

 

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