Simanaitis Says

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BILL DOBSON AND MR. WRIGHT

FOR MANY years, the talented artist Bill Dobson (1935-2011) did the side view drawings—little gems of automotive art—for Road & Track road tests.

Ferrari 333SP Race Car illustration by Bill Dobson, Road & Track, January 1995.

Bill was also a world-recognized authority on many marques, Rolls-Royce and Bentley among them, and for years served as an Honorary Judge at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. He was also a good friend.

Dobson

Bill Dobson was a world-recognized authority on many classic marques, including Bentleys.

Bill once played a role in the travel of America’s foremost architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, and his entourage.

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) felt the automobile was important to his vision of a decentralized community, free from a city’s density and verticality.

Mr. Wright (as he’s always known to his followers) was an auto enthusiast. His cars ranged from the heights of a Packard Speedster, an L29 Cord, an English AC Roadster, a Bentley and a Lincoln Continental to fleets of American Bantams—and Crosley Hotshots.

Mr. Wright usually left the Crosleys to his apprentices, but this time he and his wife Olgivanna gave one a spin. Image from the Frank Lloyd Wright Quarterly.

Twice yearly, the Wright entourage would make cross-country trips between the Taliesin Fellowship’s Wisconsin summer residence and Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona. Mr. Wright always drove something lofty; his apprentices were assigned the Crosleys.

Like all of Mr. Wright’s cars, his Crosley Hotshots were painted Cherokee Red. Image from The New York Times, August 6, 2009; photo by Matt Short, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum.

And this is where Bill Dobson enters the picture. It was a spring day in 1951, the Dobsons living in Bethany, Oklahoma, along Route 66. A 16-year-old car nut, Bill was hanging out at the dusty courtyard of the local two-pump gas station.

One of Mr. Wright’s prized cars was this Lincoln Continental given a customized treament and the Cherokee Red paint job.

Limping into the gas station came a 1940 Lincoln Continental, with two young men aboard evidently in need of mechanical aid. And Bill was just the kid to offer it. He ran home, returned with his tool box, helped jury-rig a fix on the Continental and wished the guys well as they sped off heading east.

Bill’s artistic bent was already strong, and he immediately began sketching the car’s details from memory. Its customized features included a chopped windshield, semicircular rear-quarter windows giving the car an almost nautical appearance—and no rear window whatsoever.

The Continental’s chopped windshield  is apparent.

It was quite the exotic for a 16-year-old car nut in Bethany in 1951. And it was quite the reunion when Bill saw Mr. Wright’s Continental 42 years later at the 1993 Pebble Beach Concours. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2012

5 comments on “BILL DOBSON AND MR. WRIGHT

  1. richard
    December 3, 2012

    Had not heard the Frank Lloyd Wright story from Bill. Great tidbit about a great ol’ friend! rb

    • Greg Millard
      February 23, 2014

      Hello Richard – you know me not from the trees but Struther McMinn & Bill Dobson helped me identify and subsequently locate Carrocerias Vert, the Spanish coachbuilder responsible for my 1934 Bentley’s roadster re-body. I am trying to locate where Bill’s extensive literature collection may have gone and am hopeful it is still in the public domain or accessible by appointment. I plan to try The Peterson Museum, Pasadena Arts College & The Collier Collection – any other suggestions? Thanks kindly in advance Greg Millard gstmillard@aol.com

  2. Chris Van Lith
    November 11, 2015

    Greetings Greg,

    I purchased a storage unit at auction in Morro Bay, California about 8 months ago which literally included a ton of Bill Dobson’s original artwork, illustrations, books, books & more books, Pebble Beach Ties, personal and business letters collected for decades and much more. If you’re still interested feel free to contact me at chrisvanlith@msn.com
    Thanks in advance for your attention and any interest you may have,
    Chris

    • Greg Millard
      December 13, 2017

      Chris – I quite by accident ran into this blog – if you are still active please get back in contact. I am chasing down George Albright looking for info on a Beilfuss engine for a 1901/2 Anmerican Moto Carriage Co roadster, cheers, Greg

  3. Erin Fleming
    May 13, 2016

    That is a wonderful story. Bill was my “uncle” and was a family friend all of my life. What an individual! Thank you for telling this.

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This entry was posted on December 3, 2012 by in And Furthermore..., Classic Bits and tagged , , .
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