Joseph Oros and his wife, Betty Thatcher Oros, were an unbeatable creative design team who managed to find love in one another - and greatness in their abilities. Here are some tid-bits about a dynamic couple not many of us know a thing about.
Seems I cannot say enough about automotive stylist Joe Oros and his late wife, Betty. Joe Oros is credited with the winning design from the Ford Studio that became the 1965 Mustang. Back in 1995, Joe and Betty invited me into their home to chat about their pasts. It is a story of greatness. It is also a love story because meeting one another changed the course of their lives. Had they never met and married, our world might have been radically different. What's more, we probably wouldn't be having this conversation. We know Joe Oros for Thunderbird and Mustang. However, he did so much more - and has done so much more in the years since Mustang and Thunderbird. He is 93 today.
Oros was born to Romanians in 1917. He showed incredible artistic talent in elementary school - so much so he was moved from third grade to fifth grade. Throughout the rest of his school life, he moved with incredible speed leaving a lasting impression on those who taught him. Although Oros wound up one of Ford's greatest automotive stylists, this really isn't where his abilities ended. His California home is filled with sculptures and paintings that can keep a person mezmorized for hours. And if that doesn't hold your attention, his gift of the English language will. He can hold your attention with many a good story.
Oros graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1939, later attending the General Motors School of Automotive Design under the great Harley Earl's tutorage. For a time early in his career, Joe Oros designed Cadillacs.
Somewhere in all of this, Oros met and married Betty, who was the first women stylist ever hired by a Detroit automaker - Hudson - where she worked from 1939 to 1941. Betty Oros, who was born and raised in Cleveland, also attended the Cleveland Institute of Art where she met Joe Oros. Betty's first effort as an automotive stylist was the 1941 Hudson. Betty passed on in 2001.
In time, Joe Oros came to know George Walker, who would later become a Ford vice president and head of Ford Design. He also became acquainted with Elwood Engle who worked for both Ford and Chrysler. Engle designed Lincolns and Mercurys at Ford before moving on to Chrysler. Oros first became involved with Walker right after World War II as a stylist at Walker's design agency. Walker's agency wasn't just about automobiles, but just about everything we mindlessly use in our daily lives - vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, radios, televisions, and other types of appliances. The Walker Agency also designed Nashes and Fords. When you study the 1949-51 Fords, these are Walker Agency designs that were ultimately very successful for Ford.
When George Walker joined Ford Motor Company in 1955, he brought Joe Oros with him. Oros impact on Ford styling in the years to follow cannot be measured because it touched all Ford carlines including trucks. When Oros set out to design Mustang, he had a very definite idea about what the car should be. He felt like the car should appeal to women mostly. He also envisioned a short deck, long nose ride with a Ferrari mouth. He wanted something quite sporty, but not overstated.
It was at Ford Oros came to know Dave Ash and Gail Halderman, both stylists who had a very deep impact on Mustang. There was also Damon Woods, who brought us the 1965-66 Mustang's Interior Decor Group known widely as the Pony Interior. Dave Ash was the thrust behind the winning Ford Studio entry that became the Mustang we know today. Gail Halderman has long been known as father of the Mustang fastback.
We salute Joseph Oros for his great contributions to Ford styling during a golden era in automobile history - and surely Betty for paving the way for women automotive stylists and product planners in the years since.