Detroit Steel Artists: How Edsel Ford, Ray Dietrich, Tom Hibbard, and Ralph Roberts Turned Motor City into a Styling Mecca Before Harley Earl


Matthew Kilkenny


A groundbreaking book on how automotive styling was born, the artists who made it happen, and how Motor City was changed forever.

Printed in a large 12″ x 12″ format with 296 hardbound pages, Detroit Steel Artists is the first comprehensive story about the avant-garde artists of the automotive business—the industries’ outcasts who changed Motor City forever and made styling an important selling point in the early 1920s.

Styling is a given today for selling cars. How did that come to be? Societal changes, including the modernization of business and the women’s movement, were powerful factors for styling’s rise in significance. The forward-looking semi-custom car designs, from companies such as Le Baron and Dietrich, became a key strategy for styling’s acceptance in Detroit for production cars—before Harley Earl.

Inspired by Edsel Ford’s vision, Ray Dietrich, Tom Hibbard, and Ralph Roberts battled with engineers and executives in drafting rooms and board rooms over design. Packed with lively first-person stories supported by extensive research, Detroit Steel Artists relates the successes and failures of these fascinating pioneering steel artists. With more than a hundred period and modern images, Detroit Steel Artists takes readers on a panoramic tour of some of the most beautiful cars of the Classic Car Era—the zenith of automotive design.