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Joseph E. Oros, Jr. (born June 15, 1916 in Cleveland, OH – 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. 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, 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, he was about 1/4 of his way through it.[citation needed]

Education and career[edit]

Oros graduated at the top of his class[7] from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1939 — having studied under Viktor Schreckengost[8] — and later became a student at General Motors's 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 For,[9] a design Oros described as inspired by an airplane.[9] 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[10] — as well as an IDI Bronze Medal in 1964[10] 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 Mustang[edit]

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[11][12] — while Iacocca himself 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[13] — 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.[13]

Having set the design standards for the Mustang,[14] Oros said:

I told the team that I wanted the car to appeal to women, but I wanted men to desire it, too," he said. "I wanted a Ferrari-like front end, the motif centered on the front – something heavy-looking like a Maseratti, but, please, not a trident – and I wanted air intakes on the side to cool the rear brakes. I said it should be as sporty as possible and look like it was related to European design.[14]

Retelling the story of designing the car, Oros said:

I then called a meeting with all the Ford studio designers. We talked about the sporty car for most of that afternoon, setting parameters for what it should look like -- and what it should not look like -- by making lists on a large pad, a technique I adapted from the management seminar. We taped the lists up all around the studio to keep ourselves on track. We also had photographs of all the previous sporty cars that had been done in the Corporate Advanced studio as a guide to themes or ideas that were tired or not acceptable to management.

Within a week we had hammered out a new design. We cut templates and fitted them to the clay model that had been started. We cut right into it, adding or deleting clay to accommodate our new theme, so it wasn't like starting all over. But we knew Lincoln-Mercury would have two models. And Advanced would have five, some they had previously shown and modified, plus a couple extras. But we would only have one model because Ford studio had a production schedule for a good many facelifts and other projects. We couldn't afford the manpower, but we made up for lost time by working around the clock so our model would be ready for the management review.[13]

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

We were told to design a car that the ladies would love that the men would love just as much, and that’s exactly what we did." Adding, "It makes me feel proud every time I see one. After all of these years, Mustang has never lost its luster.


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.[15][16]

Betty Thatcher Oros[edit]

1941 Hudson

Born Elizabeth Anna Thatcher, April 18, 1917 in Elyria, Ohio,[17] Betty Thatcher Oros graduated from Elyria High School in 1935. She attended the Cleveland School of Arts, today’s Cleveland Institute of Art.[17] Majored in Industrial Design, graduating with honors. Hudson Motor Company, wanting a woman to contribute a female point of view to automotive design, hired Oros as the first female American automotive designer[4][17][18] in 1939.

Oros' contributions to the 1941 Hudson included exterior trim with side lighting, interior instrument panel, interiors and interior trim fabrics.[17]

Oros designed for Hudson Motor Co. from 1939 into 1941, when she and Joe Oros were married.[17] As Joe Oros was working in the Cadillac Studio at GM, Betty resigned from Hudson to avoid a conflict of interest. Together the Oroses had five children, Joe III, Christina, Janet, Mary, and John. She later served on the Santa Barbara Museum Board and Symphony League Board. Betty Thatcher Oros died on 19 August 2001.


  1. ^ SSDI
  2. ^ "Biography of Joe Oros". biserica.org. 
  3. ^ "OROS ’39 HONORED AS FORD MUSTANG TURNS 40". CIA.edu, LINK, June 2004, page 6. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "A Moment With Joe & Betty Oros". Mustangmonthly.com, June 24, 2009. 
  5. ^ "This Little Bird: The 1955-57 Ford Thunderbird". Ateupwithmotor.com, Aaron Severson, 04 July 2009. 
  6. ^ "Joseph Oros, Jr. Obituary". The Sacramento Bee. 11 August 2012. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  7. ^ "Interview: Eugene Bordinat by David Crippen, June 27, 1984.". Autolife.umd.umich.edu. 
  8. ^ "Viktor Schreckengost has died at age 101". Cleveland.com, Steven Litt, January 27, 2008. 
  9. ^ a b "Remarks by David Thursfield during "The Road Is Ours" 100th Anniversary Celebration". Ford Media. 
  10. ^ a b "Design Awards by the Industrial Designers Institute (IDI) 1951-1965". idsa.org. 
  11. ^ "Donald N. Frey, lauteate 1990" National Medal of Technology, retrieved on August 16, 2008.
  12. ^ "The Thinker (Detroit Style)" Time magazine, April 21, 1967, retrieved on August 16, 2008.
  13. ^ a b c "1964 Mustang Designed by David Ash". Midcomustang.com. 
  14. ^ a b "Fans celebrate Mustang's 40th". Dallas Morning News. 
  15. ^ Claudia Puig, "Romanian Church Approved for Shadow Hills", Los Angeles Times, March 16, 1988
  16. ^ "The 65th Anniversary of the Holy Trinity Romanian Orthodox Church 2004". biserica.org. 
  17. ^ a b c d e "Obituary Elizabeth Anna Thatcher Oros (Betty)". biserica.org. 
  18. ^ "Hudson Commodore Six: The History". Franschhoek Motor Museum, South Africa. 

See also[edit]

Ford Mustang
See Also: Photo of Joe Oros

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7 news items

Bold Ride Blog (blog)

Bold Ride Blog (blog)
Sat, 19 Apr 2014 11:00:00 -0700

Those were the requirements laid down to Joe Oros, Lee Iacocca, David L. Ash, John Najjar, and the other men who created the Mustang. They met each of those strictures, and in the process gave birth to what's perhaps the most iconic vehicle in history.
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 03:30:00 -0700

Gale Halderman in Joe Oros' Ford studio did several sketches in this period from which Oros and his executive designer selected this one. Photos by Ford. Ford introduced the Mustang on April 17, 1964 at the World's Fair in New York. Photos by Ford.
Hamilton Spectator
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 03:01:07 -0700

Using the Falcon undercarriage to save money, Frey's crew and that of Ford styling chief Joe Oros made numerous prototypes until Oros' stylists finally got the desired "Italian" look: thin and elegant wrap-around bumpers, air scoops on the sides, a ...

CTV News

CTV News
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 04:53:32 -0700

Chevrolet had tried and failed with the Corvair, but crucially, in meeting this need for speed, Ford ensured it didn't create something overly masculine, or overly effeminate either, as the car's chief stylist, Joe Oros, said at the time: "We were told ...
Automotive News
Fri, 11 Apr 2014 11:47:26 -0700

I worked with Joe Oros, Ford styling division studio. There were some great designers, including Gale Halderman. What happened next? I put together the bill of materials against the specific model. It was crazy. Today we've got program management teams ...
Mustangs and Fords Magazine
Wed, 26 Mar 2014 22:03:45 -0700

At the time, it carried “Cougar” identification, a favored name by designers Dave Ash and Joe Oros, along with a placard describing it as the “Falcon Allegro.” At the same time, styling department work had already commenced on the new four-seat car.


Thu, 17 Apr 2014 02:11:15 -0700

Šéfnávrhár nákladných áut Joe Oros spolu s plánovačom výroby Danom Freyom postavili tajne prototyp auta podľa Iacoccova receptu. Podarilo sa im využiť pohonnú jednotku vrátane náprav i palubnej dosky z modelu Falcone, čím znížili výrobné náklady.

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