By VWLarry The great, and I'm talking about the really extraordinary automotive designers are truly artists, IMO. Battista (Pinin) Farina, Harley Earl, William Mitchell, E.T. Gregorie (Ford), Gordon Buehrig (Cord), etc are among the most artistically talented people of the twentieth century, and they just happened to focus their talent in the shaping of the cars we drive. From time to time I want to present some of the great automotive designers to the reader, and give a kind of "thumbnail" review of their careers and accomplishments, because these people deserve to be celebrated, as well as their creations, which have given so many people not only the utility of being an automobile, but also have graced our roads with beauty and originality. I've been learning more and more about the life of Virgil Exner lately, and he is definitely among the elite of the greatest designers, but he's not very well-known today. This is perhaps because his most famous accomplishment, the tail-finned "Forward Look" Chrysler Corporation cars of the 1950s, went from being industry sensations to their later, and more well-known role of being derided symbols of '50s excess, which was perhaps unfair to these cars and to their "father", Exner. The tailfins on these cars were conceived as part of a "clean break" with the past and into a new era of bold design, and moreover, Exner, in concert with Chrysler Corporation's engineering department, really did test these fins for their aerodynamic functionality, and they were touted as being beneficial to the directional stability of the cars that they appeared on. The actual amount of functional benefit, in retrospect, may be debatable, but the amount of excitement that this totally new look generated for Chrysler's cars when they debuted in 1957 is inarguable. The public LOVED the new look, and sales zoomed at Chrysler, and the competition's designers, on both sides of the Atlantic, were sent back to their drawing boards to catch-up with Exner's futuristic (at that time) look. All fashions fade though, and eventually Chrysler's, and Exner's insistence on hanging onto the tall fins led to the company's cars looking dated and out-of-step, but only because the company just wouldn't move ahead when they needed to. William Mitchell's design staff at General Motors pronounced the tailfin dead in the early sixties, but Exner didn't read the obituary, which led to his firing at Chrysler, but it doesn't detract from his brilliance as a designer in previous years. Help us write this person's story! Users will be able to edit this page in the next update of the site. In the meantime, send your version to [email protected] or post it in the forum and we will put it here!