While attending Art Center School in Los Angeles from 1949 to 1952, among the various courses required, was an illustration class using many techniques and subjects. Whenever students were given free choice of subject (flowers, mountains, etc.) I chose vehicles. When the assignment was for a outdoor watercolor scene, I selected the, then-concept study, GM Scenicruiser, since I thought it was so cool. (My sister has that painting today in her ‘Bob Gurr Gallery’ in Texas.)
After graduation in 1952, I joined Ford Styling. I went to a car show in Walled Lake, Michigan where a new Scenicruiser was on display – I was entranced by it! Later in 2001 I toured some of the western States with a mountain biking group though AdventureBus which used… an old Scenicruiser rigged up as a hippie camper. We’d ride during the day, then sleep in it while driving to the next trail site. The poor thing had been modified with a tiny Detroit Diesel 8V-74, replacing the original monster W-style diesel engine. It would be flat out in second gear at 20 mph climbing any grade. But, it was a classic Scenicruiser… and I finally got my ride in one.
As a life long car nut and credentialed car tester at the annual Los Angeles Auto Show for many years, I get to drive every alternate-fuel car available on the show’s Green Drive Day. Advanced diesel, hydrogen fuel cell, and virtually every electric car available the past 18 years. My favorite is any Tesla – the Roadster, Model S, and now a big SUV, the Model X.
Thru the kindness of the Jason Knapp family, who are loyal Bob Gurr fans, I recently had one of these wondrous concoctions in my driveway. Jason had shared their Model S in 2012 and now had the big travel wonder for me to try out. Nothing on the planet is anywhere like this “On to the Future” machine. The falcon wing door X followed the previous month’s visit from Dave Tavres’ gull wing-door ’82 “Back to The Future” DeLorean. So it’s bird-wing car 2016 for sure.
Rather than listen to me gush over the big X, please go to this Autoblog link for a very interesting evaluation – www.autoblog.com/2016/03/11/tesla-model-x-p90d-first-drive/
A caveat; as most readers know, my historic design philosophy has been to keep stuff simple, even if it was the very first creation of it’s kind. The future is never free or easy. Stuff that sounds terrific as an idea can suffer the growing pains of eventual perfection. This stunning device is a huge leap into “automotive tomorrow” which will need to endure the course of all pioneers. I know the drill…Walt Disney wanted the first American Monorail and gave me less than nine months to do it. I spent a decade getting it right. I suspect the Model X will experience a dose of the same.
On Saturday, February 6th, 2016, Bob visited a couple of old friends at the Los Angeles County Fire Museum in Bellflower, CA. Those old friend were actually two fire engines from Ward Kimball’s private collection, which are now on display at the Museum.
Bob happily retold the story of the time he drove Ward’s 1916 American LaFrance fire truck in a parade in Temple City, CA. The engine was originally in service to the Venice Fire Department, in Venice, California until the Los Angeles Fire Department took over the Venice Fire Department. It then became LA Fire Department Engine #63, until it was retired and Ward Kimball bought it for his Grizzly Flats Railroad. Ward also used his new fire engine to drive around Disneyland with his band, the Firehouse 5 Plus 2.
When Ward Kimball passed away, his family donated the ALF fire engine and his 1888 Silsby Steam Fire Engine to the Los Angeles County Fire Museum.
Gary and Bob first met as pals in the Rolls~Royce Owner’s Club of Southern California in 1979, when he was the Chairman of the Club. Gary was fearlessly building or restoring the wildest cars. Some were very authentic and correct, but the best ones were totally original. His latest mad-man project is the LaBestioni Rusty Two.
More details here – Leno drives a 1915 American LaFrance fire truck roadster
A message from Bob:
Last Saturday I opened GarageBand for the first time. Yes, this app is magic… especially for an old dude who has no grasp of music. I suffered a complete failure as a trombone student at age 9, then utter disgust on piano at 10. Finally after a year of organ training at age 48, I learned I have zero aptitude. But with my love of ambient electronica (iTunes Stillstream, Machinengeist, etc.), ‘GurrageBand’ has given me another chance at 84.
This week, over several hours, I got a real hang of composing, auditioning and setting loop favorites. I started in for real on project “SecretWorld”.
Opening with rising wind as we respond to beckoning gamelon bells, but forewarned by a deep synth bass loop, we gently break thru with twinkly glass bells to find our way with diminished winds to ease slowly into a 32 trance underlay…
The latest version is “MindDrift 3”, which runs almost 6 minutes. I hope you can play it on a big sound system.
The most thorough behind the scenes stories ever told about Themed Entertainment design at America’s favorite destination resorts – Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Tour, Spectacular Las Vegas and more.
Legendary Imagineer Bob Gurr, as Principal Designer for hundreds of Themed Entertainment projects, takes the reader behind the scenes:
- Learn how Disneyland developed the first Monorail in America.
- See how Universal Studios Tour Animated King Kong came to be.
- A Pirate Battle Show and Sinking Ship in Las Vegas – how did they do it.
- Get the story of the animated Abraham Lincoln at the NY World’s Fair.
- Meet the team behind the Los Angeles Olympics Flying Saucer.
- And so much more…
Foreword by Marty Sklar
Design by Michael Aronson, Hard-bound. 216 full color pages.
Red and Blue Collector’s Edition
1,000 numbered and signed by Bob Gurr
Thanks to all of you for making this book a success!
First Monorail operating in America at Disneyland, with Vice President Nixon attending
The hectic days in the summer of 1959, as we were getting the Monorail ready for its grand opening are well described in the Fall 2001 Issue No. 36 of the E-Ticket Magazine. Some interesting events occurred during and just after this opening:
The first Monorail Train, the red one, had been assembled on the beam way just two weeks prior to dedication day. Testing had resulted in daily failures followed by all-night fabrication of improved parts. But the Monorail did not make an actual trouble free lap around the track until the night before Walt was to introduce his new Monorail System to the world on live TV. Thus, we had no time to train the newly hired Monorail drivers. So the wardrobe department made me a Monorail driver’s uniform during the night shift, then fitted me up in it the morning of dedication day. I was now to be a Disneyland ride operator!
I had parked the Monorail in the Tomorrowland Station to be prepared to drive it out of the station after the ribbon cutting ceremony for the live TV cameras. Even if the Monorail broke down just out of view, the world-wide audience would think Walt had his new toy up and running at last.
In mid morning the day was already very hot and uncomfortable. Walt and Art Linkletter showed up with an entourage including the Vice President of the United States, Richard Nixon, along with his family. Walt wanted to show Nixon the inside of the Monorail cab. We turned on the 600-volt DC power so I could get the air conditioning to cool down the cab. In a few minutes, Walt had us all in the cab. Now Walt could get very twinkly-eyed and excited when he was showing off something new, and he told everyone about his dream for modern transportation in America. And he had it right now in Disneyland, and wanted to show it off.
Walt described how he always drove the steam locomotives on special occasions, but that he “let Bobby drive the modern trains.” Whereupon Walt said “lets go.” Oh no! This thing had only made one good lap and I was saving it for TV later in the day. But drive I did. When we passed over the Submarine ride waterfalls, Nixon let out a four letter exclamation(all the White House Secret Service Officers were left back on the Monorail station platform). Walt and I had kidnapped the Vice President of The United States!
I was so relieved when I got back to the station. But Nixon’s two daughters wanted to go around again. My heart sank and I remember little of the second lap. I had visions of the Monorail catching on fire over the Submarine Lagoon before we had a chance to develop our rescue procedures—burning up Walt and his guests!
As I slowed going through the station, the Secret Service guys were running towards the Monorail to get in and guard their targetcharge. But I drove on through and they tried to run with it to jump in. Nixon roared with laughter. This was not the least bit funny to me! Anyway, when we finally stopped after the second time around, exiting by the down ramp, Nixon looked back up after we left the Monorail and roared again. All the Secret Service guys were sitting in the train. And these guys were paid to guard the palace?
To read more on the Monorail, please order Bob’s book “Design: Just for Fun”.
A Call to the Studio / Autopia Chassis
It all started with cars. Some folks on my paper route in 1944 always had neat cars. A few years later, one of the kids that lived there was in our same car club, the “Road Burners.” Name was Dave Iwerks. We went hunting and fishing together. His dad had a short first name, Ub. After I returned in 1953 from a year designing cars in Detroit, I was a regular visitor at the Iwerks home. Ub was a quiet guy; showed me his tiny shop with many beautifully crafted guns, gave me rides in his latest sporty car.
In late summer 1954, the Los Angeles Times ran a story about a new amusement park, complete with a beautiful painting of what was to come. Wow. Neat idea. Sure would like to design something there. The Iwerks put on traditional Sunday dinners, Mr. and Mrs. Iwerks, sons Dave and Don. I was sometimes invited. Ub Iwerks would show home movies of the latest happenings at the Walt Disney Productions Studio in Burbank, California, just a few miles from their Van Nuys home. One day Ub described a little car running around on the studio backlot…no body on it, just a bare chassis.
While visiting Art Center School, my alma mater before going to Detroit, shortly after Ub’s little car story, I was asked if I did outside work in addition my regular industrial design job. I really didn’t, but I said yes. A few days later I was instructed to meet someone at the Walt Disney Productions Studio. On the drive out to the Studio, I wondered…do you suppose the little car needs a body designed?…would this be for that new amusement park? Walt’s chief park designer, Dick Irvine, met me at the gate, then ushered me into the famous Studio. They needed a car body designer….bingo!
Dick introduced me to some business folks, then showed me the little bare car chassis. It had been built by Johnny Hartman in his shop up in nearby Montrose, California. A welded steel frame, pivoting front axle, rear axle assembly, and a hot ten horsepower engine from the latest scooter-bike craze, the Mustang Colt. Just simple as could be, but bare naked. I took some dimensions, then went home to sketch some body ideas. During the next two weeks, I returned every Saturday with a series of sketches for Dick Irvine to look at. Among the business folks working with Dick was the Studio Machine Shop Manager, Roger Broggie.
On a following Saturday I received a call at (ye gads) 7:00 a.m. “Do you draft?” “Yes.” “Grab your tools and get over here.” Silence, dial tone. Roger Broggie was waiting for me. Nearby the little bare car slowly collected four guys with their feet on each tire, discussing what was to be done. One guy, slightly rumpled with a Roy Rogers wooden bullet belt, had his foot on one tire. I thought he was the father of one of the night guards. They called him “Walt.” You don’t suppose? Yep, Walt Disney. No formal introduction, just get to work. Walt was collecting a lot of new folks on the Studio Lot. We were all gonna design Disneyland.
To read more about the Autopis, order Bob’s book “Design: Just for Fun”
Walt wants a miniature railroad added to Disneyland
The area northeast of Fantasyland was just a big dusty bare spot after the 1956 circus was removed from Disneyland. Walt needed to fill this space with something quick and simple. Adding Autopia Jr. and a small river connected to Fantasyland and a small railroad was the plan. Walt thought a small Streamline train starting from Tomorrowland would work fine.
General Motors ran their experimental streamlined Aerotrain between Los Angeles and Las Vegas for a while in 1956. I thought it was the slickest looking thing on rails. I made a quick rendering of a streamline train based on the GM Aerotrain. If you are gonna steal, steal from the best! Walt liked it.
On February 1, 1957, I made the first construction drawing No. 3513-051-1 Proposed Coach Exterior. By February 20th, I’d finished the sixteen production drawings which were provided to Johnny Giltch of Standard Carriage Works on Bandini Boulevard in Vernon, a city just east of Los Angeles. Standard was contracted to build the train coaches while the Studio Machine Shop would build the two locomotives.
In designing the Omnibus, Autopia and antique cars, I used simple steel structural shapes and flat metal panels. But the streamline train was going to have a lot of light weight monocoque construction. Standard built lots of garbage trucks and had racks filled with all kinds of steel strips called “press broken” sections. These could be bent into curved parts called “carlines,” which could be covered with corrugated aluminum skins to look just like the California Zephyr. A local company, A.J. Bayer, could supply us with almost any press broken section I wanted. I was in design heaven with this new knowledge!
On February 22nd, I started the surface development drawings for the Locomotive compound curved sheet metal parts. Now, I was getting deeper into vehicle manufacturing since I needed short-run, non-tooled, compound-curved aluminum parts. I knew how race car bodies were built, having seen their parts formed by hand on shaping rolls at California Metal Shaping in downtown Los Angeles. They directed me to Mike Scott, builder of the body for the 1956 Indy 500 race winner. We gave the job of making the Locomotive body skins to Mike.
Between February 26th and April 19th, I drew the major drawings needed to build the locomotive, while draftsmen Tim O’neill and Chuck Schrader made additional detail drawings. In those days, we never had time to engineer and completely document 100 percent of everything like later on. We made lots of small sketches on the fly on the shop floor for the guys building everything. I’d never engineered a gasoline-engine locomotive before, and the shop folks had never built one either. Walt wanted it and we were doing it. That’s how we all learned a new trade.
The hardest part of a vehicle to build is the cowl, windshield, front doors, and door opening body structure. I went to the local wrecking yard and picked out a couple of smashed 1954 Oldsmobiles to design into the locomotive. Since I needed to make the locomotive narrower than a car, the Olds was perfect.
To read more on the Viewliner, please order Bob’s book “Design: Just for Fun”.