New Podcast: GM’s “Google Years” of the 1950s and 1960s with Ken Pickering

Ken Pickering, GM’s retired Executive Director, Engineering and Design Services, joins Digging Detroit’s Kevin Walsh and Pete Kalinski to discuss his career in the exciting years of design in the 1950s and beyond.

  • Moving from western Pennsylvania to WWII to GM
  • Hard work combined with some great breaks
  • Harley Earl & Bill Mitchell
  • How long a car takes from design to production
  • Women in design via Harley Earl
  • The Corvette SR2 created in 5 weeks for Earl’s son
  • Henry Ford, Willow Run and the Arsenal of Democracy
  • Motorama—Harley Earl’s Manhattan Runway
  • Man’s love-affair with cars
  • David Temple’s new book Motorama:  GM’s Legendary Show & Concept Cars


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Photos from Ken Pickering…

The first is my personal 1956 Corvette that I purchased used for $2150 in 1958.  I had an “alligatored” black paint job and was a mess but it had a 265 CID V8 with dual 4 Barrel carbs.  My friends in the GM Styling paint shop stripped the car, block sanded and painted the exterior Inca Silver.  All bright parts were custom chromed.  The grille was one I found in the scrap bin and I mounted Olds parking lamps to simulate driving lights. I designed wheel covers to emulate the covers on wire wheels and they were turned up for me by my friends a a Division. Ah, the good old days when “government jobs” were OK if the shop capacity was available.  Sadly, it was rear ended in Madison Heights and I sold it in about 1963.
A Proving Ground driving evaluation of the Corvette SRII before it was delivered to Jerry Earl.  Seated in the passenger seat is Clare MacKichan, Chevrolet Chief Designer and in the background Don Hoagg who worked for me, Bob McLean, Bob Vertyzer, Bob Lauer (my boss) and me in the plaid shirt.  I had used my old sign painting skills to layout the “144” on the vehicle on the Friday night before shipping to the PG.
From Fisher Trim and Hardware Styling (circa 1950) in a Parade magazine article showing me doing an airbrush illustration of an interior.


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