Autos of Interest: Is there a reason that fake wire wheels hadn’t been challenged up to that point?

Ruzzin: Yeah, we tried to get rid of it on the Celebrity. With the Eurosport we had the stamped steel or aluminum wheels. But on the Caprice, which was a more traditional market, they were selling a lot of them.

The wire wheel companies even visited me in our lobby, trying to talk me out of this. They’d heard that we were pushing to get rid of them and that’s what their companies had, that’s what they made—wire wheels. They should have been more on top of what was going on in the world because you could see it was going to go away. We could see it.

It really started one day when I was driving somewhere and pulled up to a light and there was one of those fake wire wheels, laying on the road that a thousand cars had run over. I was going to jump out of the car and grab it but there were cars behind me and the light changed so I left it. I regretted it, even when remembering this stuff to write down for you, I regretted not doing that because I would have brought it in and put it on the wall in my office.


Autos of Interest: How symbolic a piece it would have made for the death of the wire wheel.

Ruzzin: Yeah, you know, a fake wire wheel undermines everything about what your car is all about. This fake thing on it. There was a time and a place for them, I guess, but, by that time, we were beyond that. It was time to get rid of it.


Autos of Interest: Generally speaking, was there ever any talk of reintroducing a true wire wheel?

Ruzzin: No because, compared to steel wheels, wire wheels are very weak. You can’t have a wire wheel on a car with a lot of torque because the center hub will stretch the wires and you get all kinds of problems. So, no, there was never any—wire wheels on race cars went away in the forties, I think.


1991 Chevrolet Caprice Classic

Autos of Interest: Back to Caprice. Its design for 1991 was a dramatic departure from the prior generation, all the while covering a substantial amount of carryover hardware. Did the new shapes create any hurdles or difficulties downstream in the process?

Ruzzin: No. Any problems anyone has from a manufacturing standpoint are handled during the design process, during the execution of the design.

And, actually, quite to the opposite. The rounder, softer car was easier to do than the previous car because it had so much plan view, you know, the shape when looking down on it. And then there’s crown you have to put in the doors, in both directions, to meet the manufacturing requirements; and I think we had more than they needed. They were delighted because it meant they could really focus on execution and getting the surfaces really good, really the way we wanted it.

No, there was no problem at all with any of that.


Autos of Interest: Did the direction you were taking Caprice have an influence on any of the other work at GM?

Ruzzin: In some ways. Later when I was at Cadillac, there was a show car done, a sedan. The full-size model was done by Jerry Brockstein, he was a great guy that did a lot of neat things for GM Design. Jerry did that scale model and it became the full-size show car. My personal feeling, when I looked at it, was that it had a lot of the character of the overall shape of the Caprice.

I think the fact that it was successful and it looked great, and when something like that happens, there’s a big change, people look towards it as a new direction. It certainly was not an unusual direction that we’d discovered all on our own; it was kind of the culture and what was what was going on at GM Design. It just so happened that we had a window of opportunity to use that new culture to create a new design. I’m sure there was any number of other people that would have gone that direction as well, not just our studio, me or Ben.

Here’s an interesting story. One time, when Roger Smith was the President, we had to show the Seville and the Eldorado to the Board of Directors. It was the first time that had happened in the design stage before we released them. They’d come because it was so important to the Corporation whether Cadillac moved from a negative to a positive asset. Apparently, before they walked in somebody said, “Dick Ruzzin is here, he’s the one that worked on the Caprice.” Roger came in and was looking around, then he said to me about the Caprice, “You know, I could give that to anyone I want.” And I asked, “What do you mean?” He said, “I can make a Cadillac out of this, if I want.” I thought that was kind of a funny thing to say.


Continued on page 13.

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