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Arab Americans

Richard Caleal

Richard D. Caleal, a self-taught automotive designer who, working at his kitchen table, helped create the 1949 Ford — the compact, streamlined and hugely popular car credited with lifting the company out of its postwar financial slump — died last Saturday in West Bloomfield, Mich. He was 94 and lived in Farmington Hills, Mich.

His daughter, Mary Geo Stephenson, confirmed the death.

With its smooth, slablike sides, the 1949 Ford was a sleek departure from the fender-heavy models of the past. It was also known for its horizontal taillights and eye-catching circle on the front grille, both later additions by Ford to the original design.

The car, which became an affordable favorite of postwar suburbanites, was available as a two- or four-door sedan, a coupe, convertible or station wagon. Prices ranged from about $1,300 to about $2,300; more than 1.1 million were sold.

Richard David Caleal (pronounced kuh-LEEL) was born in Lansing, Mich., on Sept. 2, 1912, to parents who had come from Lebanon. Enthralled by drawing cars as a boy, he grew up to work for several automakers, including Hudson, Reo, General Motors, Packard and Studebaker.

After leaving Studebaker, Mr. Caleal freelanced for the industrial designer George Walker, who had been awarded the contract to design Ford’s 1949 model. With several of his former Studebaker colleagues, Mr. Caleal worked on the design in the kitchen of his bungalow in Mishawaka, Ind. He made a quarter-scale model out of clay, baking it in his home oven.

Mr. Caleal, who joined Ford after the success of his model, later worked for Chrysler.

Besides his daughter, of Birmingham, Mich.; he is survived by his wife, the former Margaret Adelaide Arata; two sons, Richard Jr., of Cartagena, Colombia; and Daniel, of West Bloomfield; four grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Source: New York Times