The automotive design world has always had its fair share of extremely talented artists. From the mechanical draftsman designing a stronger and more attractive alternator bracket, to the body designers adding a fin here or there or a piece of trim in just the right spot, to the coolest guys we all knew in high school who could draw the most amazing cars-these guys and gals are all artists in every sense of the word. Heck, we're sure at certain times we are all artists in some way, shape, or form, but this month's Darryl Starbird's National Rod and Custom Hall of Fame member is above and beyond the average automotive artist.
Sure, like any other genre of art, automotive art or design is subject to personal opinion. But then there are a chosen few artists/designers who, no matter what they lay down on paper or mold out of steel, simply command respect and awe for their natural born talents. Harry Bradley is one of those artists. Just about every custom car fan and street rod nut in the world knows Bradley's work quite well. In fact, since the '50s, Bradley has been a regular art contributor to the finest automotive publications, like the one in your hand right now. All of the images used in this column came straight from the pages of past STREET RODDER and Custom Rodder issues. So how does a kid from La Jolla, California, hone his artistic abilities to become one of the most respected automotive designers ever?
First off, being raised in Southern California in the '40s and '50s gave Harry a close-up look at the most cutting-edge customs in the world. One of Bradley's high school chums drove a Barris custom, of all things, which we're sure didn't hurt the creative juices either, but Bradley's fate was already sealed by that time.
Since the age of 7, Bradley's gift of art seemed to increase with every passing year. He even had talent within the automotive customization realm, but by the time Bradley finished high school, there was no better place to go than the Pratt Institute, the foremost design school in the country. There Bradley was able to stretch his artistic talent and refine his skills so much so that the likes of Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler, just to name a few, were knocking on his door. After taking a position at General Motors in 1962 and spending the better part of the decade working in GM's Advanced Design Studios, Bradley then started a long career with Mattel. Prior to that, he worked with the Alexander brothers designing what would become some of the most famous model kits and show cars of the time. In addition to the countless automotive renderings submitted to the automotive press since the '50s, and designing some of the most beautifully sculpted customs, hot rods, and street rods, Harry Bradley has used his talents to benefit other budding young designers at Pasadena, California's Art Center College of Design. Take note, kids, if you have artistic ability and the love of all things automotive, there is simply no better teacher than Harry Bradley.
Take a close look at the images we dug up from our archives and notice the details put into every one of Bradley's designs. Pay particular attention to the designs where he included more than one style of change, such as a chopped roof or taillight choice, enabling us to see the finished product done in a few different ways.