Ray Dietrich had spent over 50 years coachbuilding, designing, and consulting on automobiles earlier than attempting his hand at an electrical guitar. In keeping with Coach Built, Dietrich obtained his begin as an apprentice at Brewster & Co., a New York-based automaker that is in all probability greatest recognized for constructing the Brewster Buffalo fighter airplane for the U.S. Navy simply previous to the beginning of World Struggle II. Dietrich spent just a few years slicing his enamel at Brewster and Chevrolet earlier than co-founding LeBaron Carrossiers, which coach constructed for everybody from Cadillac, to Rolls-Royces built at the company’s Springfield, Mass. plant (which additionally employed and later owned Brewster).
When the Nice Despair hit, the then-independent coachbuilder working Dietrich, Inc. discovered himself closing up store and becoming a member of Chrysler. It is at Chrysler the place he made his largest affect on the auto business, engaged on the group that designed the revolutionary Chrysler Airflow, after which in 1935 main the group that designed its way more profitable comply with up, the Chrysler Airstream. After leaving Chrysler within the late ’30s, he joined Checker, the place he labored on conflict manufacturing and a stillborn front-wheel drive taxi known as the Checker Model D. Publish-war, Dietrich restarted his coachbuilding enterprise by designing Lincoln Cosmopolitan limousines for President Harry Truman and consulting on exterior tasks just like the Lincoln Continental Mark II and the Tucker 48, earlier than retiring in 1960 to Kalamazoo, Michigan.
That is the place Gibson president Ted McCarty discovered him in late 1962. With Fender’s shiny automotive paints and its new Jaguar guitar, which appeared alongside the Jaguar E-Type in advertisements of the day, rising ever extra well-liked, Gibson wanted a solution. Dietrich got here again 9 days later with an automotive-inspired design not like something Gibson had ever constructed earlier than.
Its offset physique and rounded curves paid tribute to the decorative fins on the American automobiles of the day, whereas its raised middle part (resulting from its distinctive neck-through-body design), and ornate carved headstock have been apparent call-backs to the posh coach-built automobiles Dietrich devoted his life to creating. The electrical guitar variations can be known as the Firebird I, Firebird III, Firebird V, and Firebird VII—an apparent tip of the hat to the GM’s futuristic jet-powered Firebird I, Firebird II, and Firebird III ideas. The electrical bass model of Dietrich’s new design can be known as the Thunderbird, after the Ford of the same name. Each would get a novel decorative brand penned by Dietrich on their contrasting pickguards.
Gibson’s Firebird would not simply be designed and named for automobiles, however when it went on sale in 1963, it might be accessible in actual automotive colours, too. McCarty and Dietrich would settle on 10 colors for the Firebird from GM and Ford’s palates—5 from Oldsmobile, together with Cardinal Pink, 4 from Cadillac, together with Pelham Blue, and Ember Pink, from Edsel.