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Joseph E. Oros Jr. (born June 15, 1916 in Cleveland, Ohio – August 2, 2012[1])[2] was an automobile stylist for Ford Motor Company over a period of 21 years[3] — known as the Chief Designer of the team at Ford that styled the original Mustang,[4] and for his contributions to the 1955 Ford Thunderbird.[5] Oros was also an artist, sculptor, painter and industrial designer, having designed appliances and other products.[4]

Oros was born to non-English speaking Romanian parents, originating in Transylvania.[2] He was moved up a grade from 3rd to 5th because of his fantastic art work even though his math and science skills were questionable.[citation needed]

Oros died on August 2, 2012 at the age of 96.[6] He lived in Santa Barbara, California[4] with his wife Betty Thatcher Oros, the first female automotive designer,[2][7] until her death in 2001. His house was full of his own artwork, including paintings and sculptures. Oros was working on a 3D model of the Earth depicting all the original settlers. In 2009, it was about one-quarter complete.[citation needed]

Education and careerEdit

Oros graduated at the top of his class[8] from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1939 — having studied under Viktor Schreckengost[9] — and later became a student at General Motors' School of Automotive Design, where he worked under Harley Earl's guidance[citation needed], including a period of time with Cadillac.[4] At GM, he met classmates Elwood Engel, later design chief at Chrysler Corporation and George W. Walker, later vice president of design at Ford Motor Company. After serving in World War II, Oros went to work for Walker's industrial design firm. He also recommended hiring there of his close friend Engel. Walker and Oros worked on designing Nash automobiles until 1947, when Walker's firm won a contract with Ford. Together, they worked on the designed of the 1949 Ford,[10] a design Oros described as inspired by an airplane.[10] When Walker later became head of Ford design in 1955, Oros joined Walker and Engel there. Oros worked primarily on the designs for Ford's cars and trucks, while Engel worked on Lincoln and Mercury.

Oros received a Medallion Award from the Industrial Designers Institute (IDI) (now the Industrial Designers Society of America) along with George W. Walker, Eugene Bordinat, Herbert Tod, Rulo N. Conrad, John Najjar, and Elwood P. Engel, for the 1956 Lincoln Premier hard-top[11] — as well as an IDI Bronze Medal in 1964[11] along with Eugene Bordinat, L. David Ash, G. L. Halderman, Charles H. Phaneuf, D.C. Woods, J. Najjar, and J.B. Foster for their contributions to the Mustang.

Oros rose to director of exterior design and had oversight for many Ford vehicle projects. In 1958, Oros did the primary design work on the new, four-seat Ford Thunderbird that was to debut in the 1958 model year. It beat out a competing design by Engel (which later became the iconic 1961 Lincoln Continental). Although delays caused the revised Thunderbird to arrive in dealerships three months late, it was a huge sales success. The 1958 Thunderbird outsold the old two-seat model 2-to-1, and was named Motor Trend's Car of the Year. The body style was continued through 1960.

Ford MustangEdit

1964/65 Mustang

As Lee Iacocca's assistant general manager and chief engineer, Donald N. Frey, was the head engineer for the Mustang project — supervising the development of the Mustang in a record 18 months[12][13] — while Iacocca championed the project as Ford Division general manager. The Mustang prototype had been a two-seat, mid-mounted engine roadster, later remodeled as a four-seat car styled under the direction of Project Design Chief Joe Oros and his team of L. David Ash, Gale Halderman, and John Foster[14] in Ford's LincolnMercury Division design studios, which produced the winning design in an intramural design contest instigated by Iacocca. Ash's styling exercise, originally internally named the Cougar, was the winning styling exercise.[14]

Having set the design standards for the Mustang,[15] Oros said:

Retelling the story of designing the car, Oros said:

Approval Day:[16] "Ours was quite unique and it took the whole ball game" said Oros. "It was a unanimous decision to accept the car we had prepared. They approved everything on our car — no criticisms." Henry II was totally sold on the Oros team design, and Iacocca was just happy he was finally going to have a car. "I was not in the courtyard at the approval moment, nor was any other chief of a studio there," noted Oros. Henry Ford II walked over later and told Oros, "Joe, you know we’ve approved your car but you’re $15 over the hill on it." Oros said he understood and would find a way to get the money back out of it. The product planners had an established budget and sales band on each car. So the Mustang estimated production cost had to be met or it wouldn’t be profitable. Henry II then wandered over to the seating buck, a mockup of the Mustang interior, and tried out the rear seat. "He was a big man sitting in the rear seat," said Oros. "He said, ‘Joe, I believe that we need a little more headroom.’ He swung back and hit his head. "I said, ‘Yes, sir, we can do that.’ And he said, ‘Can you do that without losing the design?’ and I said, ‘Yes, sir, we’ll do that,’ and that was it. It worked." You didn’t want to say no to the guy with his name on the building, according to Oros.

In 2009, at the celebration of the Mustang's 45th anniversary of, Oros, then 92, said:


Upon his retirement in 1975, Joe Oros and his devoted wife, the late Betty Oros moved to Santa Barbara, California, became very active in the Romanian-American community in Southern California, serving for a few years (1988–1991) as the chairman of the New Holy Trinity Romanian Orthodox Church and Cultural center in Los Angeles.[17][18]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ SSDI
  2. ^ a b c "Biography of Joe Oros".
  3. ^ "Oros '39 Honored As Ford Mustang Turns 40" (PDF)., LINK, June 2004, page 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-05-27.
  4. ^ a b c d "A Moment With Joe & Betty Oros"., June 24, 2009. Archived from the original on August 11, 2012.
  5. ^ "This Little Bird: The 1955-57 Ford Thunderbird"., Aaron Severson, 04 July 2009.
  6. ^ "Joseph Oros, Jr. Obituary". The Sacramento Bee. 11 August 2012. Retrieved 9 November 2012.
  7. ^ "Collection in Action - H". Franschhoek Motor Museum, South Africa.
  8. ^ "Interview: Eugene Bordinat by David Crippen, June 27, 1984".
  9. ^ "Viktor Schreckengost has died at age 101"., Steven Litt, January 27, 2008.
  10. ^ a b "Remarks by David Thursfield during "The Road Is Ours" 100th Anniversary Celebration". Ford Media. Archived from the original on 2012-03-20.
  11. ^ a b "Design Awards by the Industrial Designers Institute (IDI) 1951-1965" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-10-03.
  12. ^ "Donald N. Frey, lauteate 1990" National Medal of Technology Archived 2013-05-10 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved on August 16, 2008.
  13. ^ "The Thinker (Detroit Style)" Time magazine, April 21, 1967, retrieved on August 16, 2008.
  14. ^ a b c "1964 Mustang Designed by David Ash". Archived from the original on 2011-07-14.
  15. ^ a b "Fans celebrate Mustang's 40th". Dallas Morning News.
  16. ^ Parris, Michael. Fords of the Sixties (1st ed.). California Bill's Automotive Handbooks. pp. 66–70. ISBN 1-931128-16-2.
  17. ^ Claudia Puig, "Romanian Church Approved for Shadow Hills", Los Angeles Times, March 16, 1988
  18. ^ "The 65th Anniversary of the Holy Trinity Romanian Orthodox Church 2004".