Robert Henry Gurr isn't a car designer per se, yet he's designed a good many automobiles. Trains and boats, too – even a few flying saucers. That's because Gurr is an "Imagineer," one of the original group of talented folks who made dreams come true for Walt Disney.
Like his friend, "visual futurist" Syd Mead (CA, August 1997), Gurr is a graduate of L.A.'s Art Center School (today's Art Center College of Design) who started out to be an auto stylist and ended up doing something different. Also like Mead, his first exposure to the car business came at Ford Motor Company, and Gurr was no less disenchanted by what he found there. Thus, after only seven months at Ford, followed by several months with George Walker's design group, Gun returned to his native Southern California in early 1953 and set up R.H. Gurr Industrial Design.
For the next year he fielded a variety of jobs, including illustration work for another one-man show, Dan Post Publications. Among those efforts was a book called How to Draw Cars, which is still fondly remembered by certain folks at this magazine. Also in this period, Gun churned out styling ideas for struggling Kaiser under contract to the newly formed partnership of "Buzz" Grisinger and Rhys Miller. Through Walker, he was also involved in the design program for the 1956 Continental Mark II.
But even bigger things lay just ahead. With all Hollywood abuzz about the new Disneyland in 1954, Gurr landed a job designing the futuristic, self-propelled midget cars for the park's "Autopia" attraction, the one place in the world where pre-teens could legally drive solo. His work so impressed "Uncle Walt" himself that Gurr was hired full-time. He would remain with the Disney organization until taking early retirement in 1981.
Recently, Gurr sat down at his suburban Los Angeles home to reflect on his multifaceted career with Collectible Automobile editor-at-large Chris Poole: