The Fisher Body    Craftsman’s Guild

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Edward Matusek poses with his model collection in this 1939 photo.

During the first quarter of the twentieth century, automobiles stressed function and performance.  General Motors president William Durant saw the opportunity to market style and design to attract buyers from Ford’s enormously popular Model-T.  After acquiring the majority holdings of the Fisher Body Company in 1919, General Motors turned the company into its main coach-building factory by 1926.  GM’s biggest obstacle was the lack of designers and stylists available to hire.

Starting in the 1930s, The Fisher Body Company, in conjunction with General Motors, ran a series of competitions in design and styling for teenage students.  In the early years of the competition, contestants ordered a set of model plans to build a Napoleonic Carriage—the signature logo of the company.  Original model concept cars later replaced the standardized carriage in the competition which ran until 1968.  The Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild became a major recruiting tool for young artistic talent.  National winners of the competition were awarded scholarships to design school and were frequently offered employment in the General Motors styling division.

Matusek’s carriage model was submitted to Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild's contest in 1932.

Matusek’s carriage model was submitted to Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild’s contest in 1932.

One of the earliest surviving Napoleonic carriages from the Guild competition is in the Collection of the Detroit Historical Society.  This model was submitted for competition on July 2, 1932 by Edward Matusek of Royal Oak.  What makes this carriage even more unique is that it is accompanied by the original plans and instructions, photographs, and the actual award certificate.

Edward Matusek did not win the competition, although he did work for General Motors for a time in a New York assembly plant.  Matusek was able to benefit from his experience with the Guild when he left his factory job to pursue his dream to be a model toy maker.  He started a model-making company, named General Models, which he affectionately and jokingly referred to as GM.  He claimed to be one of the first creators of model cars in the late 1940s.  Around that same time, he fabricated parts for the ill-fated prototype Tucker 48—also known as “The Tin Goose” and collaborated on the creation of the Etch-a-Sketch for the Ohio Art Company.

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Matusek was awarded this certificate for successfully completing the carriage model.

 

Matusek remained a model-maker until his death in 1984, working commissions for hundreds of companies.  While his childhood ambitions of a General Motors scholarship didn’t pan out, he was able to leave his mark on history at his own GM company.  Edward Matusek’s Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild carriage and associated documents were donated to the Detroit Historical Society in 2008.

14 thoughts on “The Fisher Body    Craftsman’s Guild

  1. Thank you for showing this magnificent story of fischers body craftsman guild. and post this coache construction 1932, my name José Cardoso Brito of Portugal, I know the whole story of fischers body. a work that deserves to be released by the quality and richness of boys with creativity and intelligence to craft work.

  2. This is fascinating to me because at the age of thirteen I worked for Ed Matusek in Royal Oak on Saturdays in his Garage Model Shop. My Father William Fileccia was a Model Maker for AMT & MPC it was a great memory for me. Ed was very good to me and his wife would always make me lunch. It was my first jod and I got to run the first plastic injection molding press.

  3. My father made the Fisher Body coach model in 1931. I now have the model and have admired it for many years. It was one of many models that he built.

  4. I have one Miniature Model Napoleonic Coach with the original wooden crate. The coach is in very rough condition, do to both age and how it was cared for. I also have a binder full of articles from the 1930’s that showed up in newspapers at the time and building instructions on each piece. Then I also have a KIT that has never been assembled. I am looking for a home for the serious buyer. I have seen them sell for several dollars in the past. but, I will consider all offers. Pictures can be sent. Thanks again.

  5. Edward was my husbands grandfather and he has many fond memories of helping him in his workshop. That Coach was displayed proudly in their home until his wife Mildred passed away. It was them donated for others to enjoy by his daughter Judy Arthur.

    • Hi Brenda,
      The Coach was the first thing my father showed me when he took me over to meet Ed.
      The first job Ed taught me to do was to assemble the praying hands on a walnut base ………….they were little plastic hands he molded in his small plastic injection press, that you turned a ship like wheel to pump the melted plastic into the mold.
      2 types, one praying and one with a blood drop to represent the Nail wound in Christs hand.
      Ed made vinyl records with molded faces on them like Elvis etc.
      I cut his lawn also. They had a big yard and not say may other things I did for Ed…………………………….It was a good experience for me.

      • Bill- Did you work at MPC/Fundimensions in 1976-77? John Sanderson OldCarMan at comcast.net

  6. My stepfather built on and it won at the 1933 worlds fair in Chicago. I have the original crate and info. Looking for a museum to have it displayed

  7. Yes John I worked at Lionel Trains in 1975 -1976 Started my apprenticeship at MPC/Fundimensions in 1977 through 1983 then moved to northern Michigan in 1983 to start a Model shop with my father…..I’m tiring to recall your name please help me! Ha….thanks it’s sound familiar.

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