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In memoriam: Jerry Hirshberg

Jerry who?

Oh, just a guy who ran some studios at GM before he was recruited by Nissan to move from balmy Detroit to the bleak landscape of Southern California to start Nissan’s first satellite studio in 1979-80.

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Illustration for article titled In memoriam: Jerry Hirshberg
Illustration for article titled In memoriam: Jerry Hirshberg
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Illustration for article titled In memoriam: Jerry Hirshberg

(some of his GM work)

Illustration for article titled In memoriam: Jerry Hirshberg
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Credited with the boattail Riv, 67 Firebird, 68 GTO, and a bunch of Buicks at GM, and built the crew of Al Flowers, Tom Semple, and Hirshberg, all stolen away from GM and foundational to Nissan’s success in the US in the 80s and 90s. By the late 90s, about 3/4 of Nissan’s output came from NDI in La Jolla. He was also a pioneer in using the car design studio to recruit clients in product design, yachts, and more. He built a flexible, multi-talented team. Some of my schoolmates ended up there, including Bryan Thompson and Randy Rodriguez.

Those guys could fucking draw.

Illustration for article titled In memoriam: Jerry Hirshberg
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Illustration for article titled In memoriam: Jerry Hirshberg

Al Flowers’s sketches.

Illustration for article titled In memoriam: Jerry Hirshberg
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Illustration for article titled In memoriam: Jerry Hirshberg

Tom Semple’s sketches.

Here’s an interview from 2017, recorded by his granddaughter. It’s fantastic. Really. It’s really good. Give it a listen.

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Those guys built the first SoCal studio, and all the other Japanese, German, and American companies would follow shortly thereafter. Because there was something about the CA car culture, and the American zeitgeist, that was defined in California in the early 80s. And it didn’t hurt that San Diego has the best sunlight in the world.

Jerry Hirshberg died in November. His book The Creative Priority was something I read while I was in design school, back in 2000. He was a Clevelander, musician, and consummate artist. A Titan of car design. And, from all reports, a really great guy, who championed the voice of everyone in the studio, even and especially when it was unpopular with the overlords.

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I didn’t know he’d passed until I looked up some mid-engine Vette stuff for a comment on the FP.

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