A Kalamazoo Man Is Virtually Forgotten, But His Cars and Guitars Are Unforgettable
I know it's hard to believe, but at one time auto designers, stylists if you wish, were rock stars. Names like Harley Earl, Ferdinand Porsche, Dick Teague, Carroll Shelby, Raymond Loewy, and many, many more, designed and molded so much sheet metal into shapes that made our hearts race. And one of those rock stars had a connection to Kalamazoo and also to rock and roll history. And chances are you've never even heard of him.
This is the story of Ray Dietrich. Dietrich, born in 1894 initially designed cars. And, boy did he. How about this 1934 Packard.
(The JBS Collection via YouTube)
He had his own company, but there was the Depression and he ended up becoming the first designer for Chrysler, eventually became a free-lancer and he started working for Morris Markin at Checker Motors in Kalamazoo.
"While at Checker he partnered with Auburn engineer Herb Snow and developed the ill-fated front wheel drive, transverse engine Model "D" Checker prototype. Dietrich was also instrumental in designing the Checker Model A2 introduced in the fall of 1947. Dietrich's office at Checker remained untouched years after his death." - Wikipedia
But wait, there's more, as they say.
After Dietrich retired, he was coaxed back to work for Gibson. Dietrich retired in Kalamazoo, and then-Gibson president Ted McCarty asked Dietrich to design "a new solid-body electric guitar that would not be limited by the traditional ways of designing and engineering an electric guitar - the result was the classic, 'reverse' Gibson Firebird, released in 1963, one of the most iconic and recognizable electric guitar designs ever" (wikipedia).
We only have so much time on this planet. Ray Dietrich did quite well with his.