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Home | Darrin, Howard A. "Dutch"

Darrin, Howard A. "Dutch"

Carroll Gantz
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U.S. automotive designer born 1897 in Cranford, NJ to a family involved in the electrical equipment business. He interned as an electrical engineer with the Westinghouse engineering department in 1916 but soon served in the U.S. Signal Corps during WWI. After the war he founded an airline service operating between New Jersey and Florida, but sold the business in 1921. He then began designing custom car bodies and became acquainted with Thomas L. Hibbard of LeBaron Coachbuilders. In 1923 he partnered with Hibbard in an independent car design firm, Hibbard & Darrin, in Paris, France, producing car bodies for major European manufacturers. There he became friends with Darryl F. Zanuck at the Paris Polo Club and began a new career. In 1937 he returned to the U.S. where under his logo, “Darrin of Paris,’ he designed custom cars for many Hollywood celebrities including Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, and Al Jolson. Many of these were modified Packard cars, and Packard in 1939 contracted with Darrin to build a custom Packard-Darrin model in 1940. Soon, With Werner Gubitz, head of Packard Design, he designed the highly successful 1941 Packard Clipper. From 1943 to 1945, he served as an Air Force flight instructor in WW II. He established the Darrin Motor Car Company in 1946 to build a fiberglass car that was never produced but many of its features appeared in the 1947 Kaiser and Frazer cars when he was hired as a consultant. He designed the 1951 models, including the Henry J, as well. In 1952 he was engaged by Henry J. Kaiser to develop the fiberglass, sleek, two-seater sports car, the Kaiser Darrin, with retractable doors that slid into the front fenders, a unique pointed grille, and long sloping lines. 435 were made in 1953, but sales were poor and Kaiser shut down its Michigan plant where they were built. In 1960 he designed a sports car for an Israeli manufacturer. Darrin retired to Southern California and spoke at many classic car events. In 1965 he was honored by Syracuse University as one of the 20th century’s top 15 industrial designers. He passed away in 1982.

100 Years of Design consists of excerpts from a book by Carroll M. Gantz, FIDSA, entitled, Design Chronicles: Significant Mass-produced Designs of the 20th Century, published August 2005 by Schiffer Publications, Ltd.
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