SEPTEMBER 1, 2010
Few people have been able to successfully navigate the strenuous demands of America's highly competitive automobile industry while still producing artistic, visionary and imaginative automotive designs. The gregarious Herb Grasse was such a man. His automotive and transportation design career began in 1968 following his graduation from the world-renowned Art Center College of Design in California. Over the next 40 years, Herb mastered not only the creative aspects of automobile design, but the nuts-and-bolts business acumen necessary to make his designs a reality.
Herb lent his talents to the giants of the industry including Chrysler where he worked on the original Dodge Challenger and Ford Motor Company where he worked on the XD Ford Falcon, the original Ford Laser and the Ford Telstar. Each success was rewarded with more demanding assignments including a twelve-year overseas stint as principal designer of exteriors for Ford Motor Company Asia-Pacific and as chief designer for Nissan Australia.
In addition to his commercial automotive design career, Herb applied his creativity to the more fanciful design of custom and show cars including work on the "Batmobile" for George Barris, the Spice Girls Cadillac and the Waltzing Matilda Jet Truck (which held the land speed record for trucks in Australia). Herb also worked closely on dozens of other projects for the United States military, various movie studios and concept-car entrepreneurs.
Herb's pinnacle achievement, however, was the design of the Bricklin SV1 automobile in the mid-1970s. Working closely with Malcolm Bricklin as his director of design, Herb breathed life into the concept, design and manufacture of this dynamic, forward-looking sports car.
From creating rough sketches, to clay models, to business considerations, to the production line, Herb was involved in every aspect of making this dream car a reality. His singular efforts were recognized by his being named the Industrial Designer of the Year in Product Design by Industrial Design magazine and recognition by his alma mater, the Society of Art Center Alumni with their "Orange Door" award for Best Transportation Design.
When Herb retired from the commercial automotive industry in 1990, he started his consulting firm, Herb Grasse Designs, where he was involved in many other automotive design projects. Also, capitalizing on his years of design work and modeling of concept cars, he fabricated highly detailed architectural scale models for up-scale homes and businesses for architects in Arizona and across the country. And, as a purely creative outlet, Herb produced dozens of beautiful fine art paintings.
Herb approached his business like he did his life … a solid mixture of sometimes flamboyant fun, creativity and passion, yet always tempered with a clear-headed dose of reality. It was Pancreatic Cancer that finally claimed his life at 65.
He is survived by his wife Terrie, a son and three grandchildren. If you would like to share a personal memory about Herb, please share it with Terrie at the address below. Your remembrances will be assembled into a lasting record for his family.
In lieu of flowers, you may wish to contribute to a fund to help defray Herb's medical expenses by contacting Terrie Grasse, P.O. Box 25361, Scottsdale, AZ 85255.
A celebration of Herb's wonderful journey through life will be held at his residence on Saturday, Sept. 11 at 4 p.m.