Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ben Delphia Profile

Interior sketch for Chrysler's 300X concept car

Growing up around California's Monterey Peninsula, Ben was influenced by the many local artists that found work as school teachers as well as west coast 1950's hot rod culture. He graduated from Pacific Grove High in 1957 and attended the Art Institute of Chicago, majoring in sculpture and fine art. But after two years, his love for hot rodding and automobiles resulted in a transfer to the transportation design program at Art Center College in Los Angeles.

One of Delphia's imaginative sketches done "for fun on a slow day."

When Ben graduated in 1962, it was a down year for the auto industry. Only two Art Center seniors had commitments from Ford and GM. Everyone else, including Ben, had to fend for themselves. Fortunately for the new husband and father, he was able to secure two interviews at Chrysler and another at Ford in Detroit.

Delphia's sketches often included descriptive text to explain his innovative ideas.

Delphia's first meeting was with interior manager Charlie Mitchell at Chrysler. Mitchell was impressed enough to hire Ben immediately. “But I still have other interviews today” Ben explained. “What for? You've got the job.” replied Mitchell who had already notified the other Chrysler manager that the new guy wanted a job in interiors. Ben never made it to the Ford interview.

Here you can see Delphia's fine arts talent with a hand reaching for the shifter.
It's no surprise that Ben became the department's resident cartoonist,
drawing charicatures of his colleagues. He was also asked to create sketches to
accompany magizine artices about Chrysler designs.

Ben’s career at Chrysler spanned over 20 years. He influenced the interiors of concept vehicles like the 1966 300X and Chrysler’s production cars and minivans around the globe. With permission from Design VP Elwood Engel, Ben also designed the “Reactor” for legendary customizer Gene Winfield. Besides being a hit at custom car shows, the vehicle was featured in episodes of Bewitched, Star Trek and Batman as Catwoman’s Kitty Car.

Another one of Ben's 300X ideas for eliminating the steering wheel.

As many car companies began to outsource their interior design and manufacturing, Delphia saw the opportunity to leave Chrysler and develop his own independent design firm. Years later he accepted the position of director of styling, design and graphics for Magna Interior Systems.

This instrument panel sketch proposed using mirrors to give the dash a sleeker look.

He is a recipient of the Automotive Interiors Lifetime Achievement Award and has taught transportation interior design at Kendall College of Art and Design. Delphia holds 18 patents and over 30 corporate co-patents.
You can see more of Ben Delphia's sketches in my gallery.

3 comments:

Steve Sicklick said...

noticed that many of the Ben Delphia renderings have the date beneath the signature crossed out. Why do you think that is so?

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Brett Snyder said...

For a while Ben worked under a manager that did not want dates on design sketches. It was felt that the date - especially if it was from several months or years past might prejudice people's thinking.

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