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Cord L-29 Brooks Stevens Speedster, 1930

  • "He is beyond any real question one of the supporting pillars of the automotive community, both of the manufacturers and of the vintage community." So wrote Special Interest Autos in a lengthy profile on Brooks "Kip" Stevens back in 1982. Within today's automotive community, the name is in some large sense lost, owing to the fact that many of Stevens' automotive employers are themselves gone. He spent much of his time in the automotive industry designing for Kaiser before advancing the image of Studebaker in the sixties, a decade the marque would not survive. However, if any of his motorized contributions could remain corporeal in the sense of our collective memory, then perhaps we'd need to mention, first, the Harley-Davidson Hydra-Glide, and second, the Jeep Wagoneer. Of course, we should also remember that Stevens chose to act more so as a company than as an individual talent. "Kip always referred to such efforts in the first person plural—'we' did this or that. This was only because he wanted to make it clear that Brooks Stevens Associates was not a one-man company."
  • After studying architecture at Cornell, the economic realities of the classic era and its lack of construction projects pushed Stevens into the design field. He worked on projects ranging from farm tractors to marine engines to beer cans, and he performed work in about a half-dozen countries. His name is even linked with post-War Alfa Romeo and the 6C 2500. So, although we make a big to-do about the people whose designs excite us, we must acknowledge the breadth of influence Stevens had on the better part of twentieth century design. Oh yes, and the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile—that was Stevens' design, too.
  • Today, Brooks Stevens is still an active industrial design firm working out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where Brooks founded the company in 1934. As Brooks Stevens, Inc. declares, (or at least declared at one point), "Brooks Stevens was responsible for the design of over 2,000 products for over 600 clients in a career that spanned 60 years. He was one of the ten original charter fellows of the Society of Industrial Designers in 1944, and the only one not from New York."
  • This Cord L-29 can be considered an indelible mark of Brooks Stevens' life in design. With the help of his father, he acquired the car in the early thirties, slightly used, and soon enough decided to personalize it with his own design. Cord's Limousine Body Company carried out the plans, and Brooks kept the car for more than sixty years until his death in 1995. Well traveled along the recent concours scene, Brooks' personal Cord was nominated in 2016 for the International Historic Motoring Awards Car of the Year, receiving consideration after winning Best of Show at Amelia Island.

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Last Updated: Aug 19, 2017