Jack Telnack – A Man of Few Words
Telnack would climb the fence surrounding Ford’s Dearborn test track to sketch new models as they drove by, before his father managed to arrange a tour of its styling offices – where Telnack became even more fascinated.
His breakthrough design came in 1986 with the Taurus and Mercury Sable models. Their wind-cheating shape greatly influenced future Ford products.
Early Life and Education
Telnack first discovered his dream to design cars as a youngster living in Dearborn, Michigan. Climbing Ford’s test track walls as a child allowed him to sketch new models whizzing past and draw sketches that revealed himself as future car designers.
After graduating from Art Center College of Design, he started at Ford in 1958 as a designer. By 1965 he had become head stylist for Lincoln Mercury before being sent overseas as part of a redesign team for Ford Falcon in Australia.
He designed the 1986 Taurus with its wind-cheating aero look, setting a trend. Additionally, he created the 1979 Mustang used as pace car during the Indianapolis 500 and credited its low front end for inspiring an aerodynamic 1980s design look.
Born near Ford’s Dearborn plant, Telnack quickly found himself drawn to automobile design at age 15. At 15, he would climb the test track walls and sketch new models as they passed by. Although his family encouraged him to study engineering at University of Detroit, Telnack desired a career in automotive design instead.
Telnack began working for Ford shortly after graduating Art Center College of Design in 1958 and soon rose through the ranks, becoming a manager in just four years. Soon thereafter he served as head stylist for Lincoln Mercury and chief designer of Ford Australia; additionally from 1980-1997 he held global vice presidency of design positions with them.
Telnack’s designs had an immense influence, including those seen on cars like the 1979 Mustang and 1986 Taurus. Uwe Bahnsen recalls working alongside Telnack during his time as Design Head of Ford Europe in 1974; working together fostered an environment which encouraged creativity to flourish.
Achievement and Honors
Ford honored Telnack with inclusion into their Automotive Hall of Fame and selected him as recipient of the EyesOn Design Lifetime Design Achievement Award 2023 in 2008. This prestigious accolade recognizes designers whose iconic and significant contributions have shaped cars like the Ford Taurus’ iconic jellybean design.
Telnack spoke at the Dearborn event about how engineering, manufacturing and marketing were all invited to collaborate on designing the Taurus. While meetings of this sort would have been unheard-of several years ago, today they’re part of Ford’s corporate culture that emphasizes collaboration and consultation. He also talked about Sergio Pininfarina’s influence during his time at Ford as an avid fan of his legendary design work.
Telnack was Ford’s global design vice president until 1997 and is known for his quiet yet engaging demeanor and charming smile. These traits tell the tale of an incredible career journey.
Telnack became fascinated with Ford cars during his youth, climbing the walls around Dearborn test track to sketch new models roaring by. Determined to become an automotive designer, Telnack convinced his father to allow him to attend Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. After graduation he joined Ford immediately – never leaving except for overseas assignments – becoming key contributors on Mustang as well as helping bring aerodynamic look vehicles like Taurus and Sable into production – shattering traditional “boxy” looks that had long dominated American cars since before then.
Jack Telnack is a self-made multimillionaire known for designing beautiful cars for Ford Motor Company. He believes design holds the key to American automakers competing against Japanese and European automakers.
He is widely acclaimed for revolutionizing how cars are designed at Ford. Instead of simply having designers work alone on designing vehicles, he would convene meetings involving engineers, manufacturing representatives and marketing representatives in order to discuss designs being created.
He was responsible for developing the aerodynamic teardrop shape that became iconic to Ford cars of the 1980s, such as the Ford Taurus. Other car manufacturers adopted this new design look to stay ahead of competition.