I’m deeply saddened by the passing of my good friend, retired GM Studio Chief Blaine Jenkins, age 80, at his home in Palm Springs, California. Blaine was a talented designer who had a hand in the creation of some of the most iconic products of GM’s Golden Era.
|Blaine with Ruth Helm and his '53 Ford, 1955|
|Blaine and Harvey Helm, 1955|
Blaine was born and raised in the tiny town of Caney, Kansas, and studied architecture for two years at Kansas State before hearing about a school for Automotive Design called Art Center in Los Angeles. Although none of his credits would transfer, he applied anyway and soon headed westward. After two years, he joined GM in the fall of 1956. He was recruited by none other than legendary GM designer Chuck Jordan. Following his probation period in the Orientation Studio, he was assigned to Chevrolet Interiors where his first assignment was working on the all-new 1959 Chevrolet.
|The 1960 Corvair "Super Monza" for Miss Lynn Mitchell|
His contributions to Chevrolet were many, including the interior for the 1961 Corvette Mako Shark. His “Super Monza” Corvair for sixteen year old Lynn Mitchell led directly to the highly successful production Corvair Monza. His favorite project of the era was the mid-year 1965 Chevrolet Caprice, a car which was developed so quickly it had no budget, and Blaine was able to design a Cadillac-level interior for the the new top-of-the-line Chevrolet. It was in 1965 that he created what became is signature color, a violet tinted silver he named "Evening Orchid." Blaine marveled that of all the projects he worked on, he got more questions about Evening Orchid than anything else.
|1965 Corvair Corsa in Evening Orchid|
|The mid-year 1965 Caprice|
Blaine went to Oldsmobile in 1966. His first project there was a last minute redesign of the 1967 Toronado interior to make it more appealing to women, then took over the 1968 line up. He was made Studio Chief and had a good relationship with Olds GM John Beltz, who came to him one day to ask what he could do if he was given a hundred dollars to spend inside a Ninety-Eight. “Anything you’d like” was Blaine’s immodest reply and the result was the highly successful Ninety-Eight Regency whose luxurious pillowed seating caused considerable consternation to sister division Cadillac.
|1972 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency|
From Olds, Blaine went to Pontiac where he created the Luxury Le Mans and applied finishing touches on the 1973 Grand Prix and Grand Am, including the genuine wood dash veneers. After about a year, Olds asked him to come back and he went, remaining there until 1980 when he was placed in charge of the GM Color Program. He ran the color program for four years and introduced Jadestone and Briar Brown into the automotive conversation. Following that assignment, he returned to Chevrolet until a back injury caused him to take early retirement in 1990, His last project was the 40th Anniversary Corvette of 1993.
|1993 40th Anniversary Corvette|
Blaine’s loved wood bodied cars and owned many over the years, including a 1947 Buick Estate Wagon, a Chrysler Town and Country Sedan and a rare 1947 Ford Sportsman. He also owned a 1954 Buick Super that had belonged new to his Mother’s college roommate, Blaine had known the car since 1955 and inherited it in 1976, it remains in his garage to this day.
|Blaine in front of the Buick he would inherit, 1955|
|Blaine with the newly restored Super, 1989|
He met his husband, Philip at a bar in Detroit one night in the summer of 1975 and they were together ever after- just shy of four decades. With him goes a treasure trove of stories and recollections of GM’s Golden Era. He knew how Harley Earl took his coffee and how Bill Mitchell liked his hookers, and there aren’t many left with that testimony.
|Blaine's "Rock Star Moment," 2012|
Is there really anything more one can ask for? I will miss him dearly, but I am so much richer for having known him. Requiescat in Pace, my friend.