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

ISBN: 9781643437521
Binding: Hardcover
Author: Matthew Kilkenny
Foreword by: Jay Leno
Pages: 304
Trim: 12 x 12 inches
Published: 03/23/2022

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Winner of the 2023 Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot award from the Society of Automotive Historians
2023 IBPA Gold Award for Best Coffee Table Book!
2023 IPP Gold Award for Best Transportation Book!


 "[Detroit Steel Artists] is illustrated with sumptuous photos of period cars shot by pros. . . . Woven through the images is a detailed and well-constructed narrative, one that uncovers unsung heroes of the time period." — Car and Driver Magazine

Printed in a large 12″ x 12″ format with 296 hardbound pages, Detroit Steel Artists is the first comprehensive story of the avant-garde artists of the automotive business—the outcasts who changed Motor City forever and made styling a selling point in the early 1920s. Driving calls it "an almost essential addition to the library of any pre-war American Classic Car Enthusiasts."

The book details how 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 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.

About the author . . . Matthew Kilkenny holds degrees from San Jose State University and has a Deming Scholars MBA from Fordham University in New York. A Bay Area native, he's spent his career in engineering and management roles in Silicon Valley, is a judge for the Packard Open Class at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, and is a member of the Classic Car Club of America, The Packard Club, and the Society of Automotive Historians.

"Matthew Kilkenny's meticulous research has now produced a book that is as elegant as the cars themselves. The book is produced to a level above its price. . . . It should be regarded among the most important histories of the auto industry of the period. Highly recommended." - Keith Martin’s Sports Car Market

"Detroit Steel Artists is one of those rare coffee table books that pairs thorough, engaging research with beautiful historic and modern imagery. . . . Author Matthew Kilkenny studies the automobile design figures who made great strides towards beautifying the automobile in the early 1920s and beyond. . . . Detroit Steel Artists is not only big and beautiful on the outside, the information inside is big and lives up to the book's physical presentation." - Old Cars Holiday Gift Guide

"It's a grand, important book well-done in every respect telling of the grand cars and the men who created them." -

"It's not too far of a stretch to say Detroit Steel Artists is an almost essential addition to the library of any pre-war American Classic Car Enthusiasts." - Driving

"To those who have read all the well-thumbed standard reference texts on the Classic Era and expect a rehash of the same stories, Detroit Steel Artists will provide a wealth of surprises. It's an outstanding piece of work." - Classic Car Club of America Bulletin