by Wallace Wyss
One of the pioneers of postwar automotive art was David Lord, 78, who passed away on November 8, 2019 in Fishers, Indiana, within hearing distance of the great Indy 500 Speedway.
Lord loved race cars. He did the race cars of the times he grew up in, and even before those times. He was able to not only render the car correctly to the tiniest detail but also to put the car in its proper race setting, usually the Indy Speedway, so you got the full ambiance of the event. A New Englander by birth, Lord spent much of his childhood making drawings alongside his grandmother’s easel. His mother was also supportive of him, and they both hoped he could get into the Art Center College in Los Angeles.
He did achieve that dream, and won a full scholarship from General Motors Corporation which paved the way for his Bachelor of Professional Arts in Industrial Design. After graduation he worked with Gordon Buehrig, one of the great American designers (Cord) on a 9/10ths copy of the famous Cord 812 he developed before the war, a car that was before its time.
He also worked with UniRoyal Corporation in Mishawaka, Indiana, on various projects including projects involved with equipping the military in Vietnam. But wearing the corporate yoke didn’t satisfy him, so at night he worked on his own paintings of race cars. He finally got to the point where he didn’t need to work in the Corporate world and instead became a commercial and fine artist.
It has been said that his love for fast race cars and airplanes was explainable because he was in love with anything that involved fluid motion. He won plaudits from car magazines, Automobile saying he was "one of America's best painters of motor racing scenes." The Artist's Magazine got the feeling of seeing his work down on paper when they wrote “his "canvases seem to resonate with the clamor of roaring engines, the rush of precision vehicles and the illusion of steel slicing the air at 200 miles an hour, and his scenes combine his love for the speed and beauty of the automobiles."
He believed in the power of a group and after meeting a few other car artists at the Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance near Detroit, deciding it was time to have an artist’s group centered on automotive art. He was a co-founder of the Automotive Fine Arts Society (AFAS). In 1991, he won an award from the same group for his art. His artwork can be found in museums all over the world, from the Blackhawk Museum in California to the Louwen Museum in Holland. He always returned to the subject of Indy and was proud of the program cover he did for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Airplanes were another passion. He also belonged to a group of aviation enthusiasts who formed the Military Heritage Foundation in 1990. The group was dedicated toward showing the public the planes that won WWII and did seventeen air shows a season , many of the audience being veterans who flew the same planes during the war.
Randy Leffingwell, one of the stalwart auto historians, quotes Lord on David Lord’s website, Lord saying “I choose to call my work ‘interpretive realism,’ a constant attempt to combine reality with the freshness and freedom of the brush stroke. By capturing an image in time, I feel my art brings to the viewer the same feelings and reactions I have creating it.”
“This is my goal for my art; to make it strong . . . to make ripples in the worlds of others, to bring back memories and add to their lives in unique ways.” At that he succeeded, inspiring other young artists to emulate him.
"David was always an inspiration for me after I was invited to join the AFAS." says Richard Pietruska, VP of AFAS, "He enjoyed my work and always encouraged me to keep searching for new directions in my sculptures. He was always there at the Pebble Beach Concours event and continued to improve his own work. It was sad for me when he wasn’t able to attend the shows any more. But the best part was talking to him and sharing his thoughts on automotive art and design. And besides he was just a loving and thoughtful person and I’m sure that those who knew him miss him very much."
Editior's note: David Lord was in many ways "before digital" and so it was difficult to secure good resolution images of his work.